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Rashid Khan: The young Afghan star

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Rashid_Khan_Afghanistan_IPL_CricketLess than a month after his 17th birthday, Rashid Khan made his ODI debut on Afghanistan's tour of Zimbabwe in October 2015. By the time Rashid was 18, he had created a buzz in the world of cricket for three vital reasons. One, he was from Afghanistan. Two, he became only the second Afghan player, after former national skipper Mohammad Nabi, to be picked in the auction of the tenth edition of the Indian Premier League. Three, he already holds record hauls in ODIs and T20Is.

 

The 18-year-old leggie came into the limelight during the Twenty20 series against Ireland which was played in Greater Noida, India. During the second game, which was rain-affected, Afghanistan had put up 184/8 and Ireland had to chase a target of 111 in 11 overs. At 68/3, the Irish side looked comfortable, but then Rashid singlehandedly changed the course of the match by taking five wickets in nine balls. He ended up with outstanding figures of 2-1-3-5.

His devastating haul helped Afghanistan to secure their 10th consecutive victory in Twenty20 Internationals, which was the best by any team. Rashid’s figures were the best by an Afghanistan bowler in this format, and the fifth-best by any bowler.

With such an outstanding show, Rashid’s performances have gotten the whole world talking. Not only did Rashid grab an IPL contract, he also registered his name in the Guyana Amazon Warriors in the Caribbean Premier League.

Rashid Khan and Afghanistan cricket are having the time of their lives in 2017. The period from February to March has been a golden one for both. During the 2017 Indian Premier League auction, Rashid Khan became the highest paid cricketer from an Associate nation in the history of the tournament.

The performance of the 18-year-old legspinner is indeed a sign of great things to come for Afghanistan cricket. With a record streak in T20Is, the team will only be aiming higher as 2017 progresses.

 

When Rashid’s name was bought up in the auction of Indian Premier League, 2017, the leggie attracted attention from all the franchises. Eventually he was snapped up by the Sunrisers Hyderabad for a whopping Rs 4 crore, which confirmed his rise to international stardom. After he was bought in the auction, Nabi said, “His googly is difficult to pick and he fires it on target.”

Rashid was selected for the opening game against Royal Challengers Bangalore and the anticipation was at its peak. His crowning moment came in his very first over when Mandeep Singh, his first victim, dragged a quicker delivery on to the stumps for 24. When Travis Head and Kedar Jadhav registered a 50-plus partnership, Sunrisers skipper David Warner turned to Rashid to break the dangerous stand. And he delivered by removing Travis Head for 30. His figures of 4-0-36-2 on IPL debut gave a glimpse of what he could deliver.

In the next match against the Gujarat Lions, he produced an astonishing spell, confirming his credentials as one of the future stars of the game. Nabi’s words had indeed come true. On a pitch which was good for batting, he picked up three top-order wickets. The most common thing was all three were trapped LBW, proof of his accuracy and clever variations.

In his very first over, he got the big wicket of Brendon McCullum for five runs with a googly that turned only a bit. In his second over, he removed Aaron Finch for 3 with another googly that also didn’t turn much. For his third wicket, in his third over, he trapped Gujarat Lions skipper Suresh Raina (5), who is a top player of spin with a leg break. In his final over, he troubled both Dwayne Smith and Dinesh Karthik, returning figures of 4-0-19-3.

 

When asked about his inspiration, the 18-year old said, “MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli and Shahid Afridi have inspired me, but Shahid bhai have inspired me more than anyone else.”

The day is not far when the entire world will again witness Afridi’s “star man” celebration on the field, this time by the Afghan leggie.

In the first two matches, the 18-year-old had already picked five wickets, and he was awarded with the purple cap for the IPL’s leading wicket-taker. When he got the cap, Rashid said, “It’s difficult for the batsmen to pick my googlies. It’s a good track and if you bowl wicket-to-wicket here, it will be tough for the batsmen. When asked about his favorite wicket in the IPL, Rashid responded, “Brendon McCullum’s wicket was my favorite.”

Rashid’s performances in the IPL are a continuation of his brilliant bowling in international cricket. In 26 ODIs, he has 53 wickets at an astonishing average of 16.69. In 24 T20Is, he has 40 wickets at an average of 14.4. In the 2016 World T20, played in India, he first rose at the international stage by becoming the second-highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 11 from seven games. Since then he never looked back.

The IPL is known for establishing new talent and finding those with that X factor. With 9 wickets so far, Rashid Khan is number 3 on the wicket-takers’ list. With such performances, Rashid joins the list of players who have provided the X-factor in the IPL. Mustafizur Rahman, the Bangladesh pacer who played a key role in Sunrisers Hyderabad’s win in the 2016 IPL, choked the opposition with his cutters. Caribbean spinner Sunil Narine also played a vital role for Kolkata Knight Riders with his variations in their 2014 title charge.

Rashid’s accuracy and his hard-to-decipher googly provide him the cutting edge that is so vital for this batsman-dominated event. With the kind of start he has got, the Afghan sensation and Shahid Afridi fan has truly taken the tournament by storm.

One can easily say that Afghanistan cricket seems to have a very bright future with this find of one gem of a player- Rashid Khan.

 

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Yatin Singh is a graduate of Delhi College of Arts and Commerce, studied B.A (H) Journalism. Yatin,...

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