A reliable wrist spinner is an asset to any team and there have been numerous instances when wrist spinners have won matches irrespective of the conditions. But there’s a reason wrist-spinners are not as common. While leg-spin is an invaluable art, it’s also the most difficult one master.
But there’s a new kid on the block who is doing it with great ease and troubling the batsmen wherever he plays. He has been the talking point for some time now and his name is Rashid Khan.
The leg-spinner from Afghanistan has been very impressive, to say the least. In less than two years after his international debut, the teenager has won millions of hearts.
Interestingly, the Afghan cricketer grew up idolising Shahid Afridi, the hard-hitting all-rounder form Pakistan. And it is quite evident from his quick arm action – which is actually quicker than Afridi – the pace at which he operates and even the lines he bowls – linear, from stump to stump. Not to forget his celebration, which also reminds us of Afridi.
Few experts have even rated him to be one of the best leg-spinners going around. And if he keeps doing what he is doing, we would be in for a lot more of Rashid Khan.
Here are five reasons why Rashid Khan could go on to be the best leg-spinner in world cricket.
#1 Age on his side
In order to achieve great things, you need to play more games. And to play more games, you have got to have a lot of time.
Rashid Khan, being just 18 years old, certainly has the age factor in his favour. While he is a very skilful bowler already, there always is some room for improvement. By playing more and more games against quality batsmen, in various conditions, and facing different challenges, he will certainly learn more.
In his very brief career, he has shown what he is capable of. And if we are to judge by his performances so far he could go on to become the best leg-spinner in world cricket.
#2 Plenty of tricks up his sleeve
For a player of his age and experience, the leggie has a rich repertoire. With a ball in hand, the teenage sensation has a bag of tricks.
Along with conventional leg break, he bowls deceptive flippers and well-disguised googlies, making life more difficult for the batsman. In fact, his googlies out-number the leg breaks most of the times. It would be safe to say that the googly is his main weapon. What makes facing him even more difficult is that he bowls all these variations with almost no change in his action.
So, if you are a batsman facing him you are going to have a hard time picking which one he bowls, let alone scoring boundaries.
You can see why Sunrisers Hyderabad spent over Rs 4 crore on an overseas spinner with little experience.
#3 The quick action and the right pace
Good batsmen try to figure out what the bowler is going to bowl by observing the bowling action or the grip. But with Rashid Khan, that’s not an easy job. He rushes to the crease and lets it rip with a quick arm action, giving no trace of what’s coming. And bowling over 90kmph with a flat trajectory, he doesn’t let the batsman shimmy down the pitch to meet the pitch of the ball.
To top it all there’s his immaculate control. He has an economy rate of 6 and averages 13.82 in T20 cricket. In a format where batsman’s intent is to send every ball sailing over the ropes, his numbers are very, very impressive, which also speaks volumes of his control.
When a wrist spinner doesn’t bowl boundary balls the pressure is bound to build and the wickets are sure to come. That is exactly the case with Rashid Khan.
#4 Self-belief and temperament
There are some who do well at domestic level but fail to replicate the same performances at the highest level. And few even succumb to the sheer pressure. More often than not, it’s nerves and lack of self-belief that causes the failure, and not the skills.
But the precocious leggie has shown that he belongs on the international level. He registered a record 5 for 3 against Ireland in a T20I which is the best for an Afghanistan bowler and the joint fourth-best figures in all T20s.
Playing in T20 leagues, which feature the most intimidating batsmen from around the world can be petrifying. But the teenager has shown no nerves whatsoever.
#5 The IPL lessons
An opportunity to play in the IPL, the biggest T20 league, must have thrilled the 18-year-old, and his successful IPL debut would have done his confidence a world of good.
The experience of playing against world class batsmen could make him a much better bowler. He can win matches for SRH and develop the habit of winning, and if he finds himself in tough situations he will learn ways to deal with such circumstances.
T20 leagues like the IPL are going to make him smarter and tougher as a player. And with the number of games he plays, the right armer will only get better.
The young leg-spinner has got a lot going for him and we could be seeing a lot more of him in the years to come.