It was during the IPL 10 auction when one of my cricket-enthusiastic friends asked me who Rashid Khan was. It was not because Rashid is such a popular name that needs no introduction, but the one many were not aware of. When I replied her saying he is a leg-spinner from Afghanistan, she was amused. “They did not pick Imran Tahir but invested so much in Rashid Khan?,” she queried. While she had a point about no one being interested in the No. 1 T20I bowler in the world, there surely was ample reason to pick Rashid and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) took one of the smartest moves ahead of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2017.
Aged 18, Rashid has already made a permanent spot in the Afghanistan sides across formats. It was not easy, given there already was a prodigious spin-bowling all-rounder present who had helped Afghanistan win several matches. Mohammad Nabi, Rashid’s predecessor had already emerged as Afghanistan’s saviour, and it was a monumental task for any bowler of same art to define his space in the team. Rashid was lucky enough to get his chances, and he answered all questions with remarkable consistency. In a mere 26 ODIs, Rashid has claimed 53 wickets and from 24 T20Is he has bagged as many as 40 wickets so far.
What comes across as the most impressive aspect in Rashid’s feats is his economy. In ODIs, he has an economy rate of 4.11 and an average of 16.69. In T20Is, the corresponding numbers are 6.07 and 13.82 respectively, which includes Rashid’s appearance in major tournaments such as Asia Cup and ICC World T20.
A spinner who picks up wickets consistently and gives away a very few runs was deserving to get picked in the auction of a tournament like IPL, where hard-hitting has always ruled the roost. Rashid’s efforts impressed the selectors of Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) so much so that he got a spot in the team ahead of the senior man Nabi.
However, those who have hogged the most limelight so far are the two leggies — Imran Tahir, who was not even bought in the auction and Rashid, who hardly had any recognition among the mass.
But Rashid has surprised those who did not know much about him with 5 wickets from two matches and now flaunts the Purple Cap. But those who have followed the yet another quality Afghanistan cricket, would not be surprised.
Only the eighth spinner to bag 5 wickets in a T20I match, Rashid has more to his bowling than just being disciplined and consistent. He plays with the minds of the batsmen. He bowls the wrong ’uns to those who treat him as a leg-spinner. The batsman misses, Rashid hits. He does not use the wrong ’uns against those who are aware of this habit. The result is the same; the batsman expects a googly and misses, Rashid strikes. So far, batsmen have looked anything but confused in front of the Afghanistan youngster.
His scalps have earned him the title of a ‘superstar in-making’ from SRH skipper David Warner. Carrying the emblem of his side, Rashid is spreading the brand of Afghanistan cricket in such a platform where the superlatives of cricket gather to perform.
Afghanistan have already been marked as one of the fastest growing cricketing nations and the spectacular performance that Rashid puts up only helps them receive more praise. All this only with his bowling, as the IPL audience is yet to witness the hard-hitter Rashid, who has a career-best of 60 off 44.
An elated Rashid feels lucky to share dressing room with the stars like Warner, Yuvraj Singh, Kane Williamson. Under the supervision of Tom Moody and Muttiah Muralitharan, Rashid is expected to receive top-class guidance that will help him evolve into an even better cricketer altogether after this IPL. However, Rashid’s biggest wish revolves around his country.
“The target is, I should play Test cricket for my country. That’s my main target, to be called a Test cricketer,” the Man of the Match of SRH’s fixture against Gujarat Lions (GL) revealed to Reuters.
In his wish is hidden the dream of seeing his country play the purest form of cricket, a dream that his peers have been cherishing for a long time now.
Till IPL 2017, Indians were reminded of the musical genius by the name Rashid Khan. From now on, it will also remind them of the sweet sound of a cricket ball knocking off the middle-stump or a ‘how’s that’ which saw the umpire raise his finger many a times.