The Perpetual Rise Of Rashid Khan

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In this photo taken on June 3, 2018, Afghan cricket player Rashid Khan (L) celebrates the wicket during the first Twenty20 International cricket match between Afghanistan and Bangladesh at Rajiv Ghandi International Cricket Stadium in Dehradun. (Photo by Kamal Sharma / AFP) (Photo credit should read KAMAL SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images)

The Perpetual Rise Of Rashid Khan

Imagine you are 19 years old and the greatest wicket-keeper batsman of all time, Adam Gilchrist, has your picture as his “DP” on Twitter. That would normally mean you have made it, wouldn’t it? Well, Rashid Khan has taken the world by storm and how! Playing for a team that was an associate side until recently, to gain the limelight like he has is no easy feat.

Don’t let his fast bowler like follow-through or his cheeky smile fool you. Nothing has come easy for Rashid Khan. Nothing can if you are from a war-torn country. Rashid’s family, like millions of Afghans, had to take refuge in Pakistan. While it must have been an extremely difficult situation for him and his family, something crucial happened in Pakistan.

In Pakistan nothing makes you as happy as cricket and the popular legend Shahid Afridi. Rashid Khan adored Afridi like many in this part of the world, so much so that he modelled his action on him. The fact that he almost brushed aside those he played against, while Afghanistan continued to rise up the ladder as a team, is hardly surprising. They were no match for him. The rest of the world, the established stars were waiting for him now, to see if he was really that good.

Fast forward to IPL 2018, the 7th of May to be precise, one of the many IPL league games was taking its course. Sunrisers Hyderabad had scored a typical 146 batting first and the Royal Challengers Bangalore looked well on course courtesy of their skipper Virat Kohli looking in majestic touch. They were 60-1 at one stage after 7 overs. Enter Rashid Khan. What transpired after that wasn’t for those obsessed with statistics, because stats will tell you Rashid’s figures that night were 4-0-31-1. But the way he completely shut Kohli down (in that touch mind you!) and how he just didn’t allow AB De Villiers to get away meant RCB lost their way completely and ended up losing the game by 5 runs. Those who saw that game knew who won that game for SRH.

This aforementioned game was a quintessential Rashid Khan performance. He is the game-changer, the one for whom plans are made, whom opponents just want to play out for four overs. He has now reached the stature that Lasith Malinga, Sunil Narine had in their prime. Add his batting to the mix (sorry Kolkata Knight Riders fans) and he becomes the most valuable player for any team. This is not just restricted to the IPL. He has bamboozled many even in the Big Bash League during his debut season. He ended up as the joint highest wicket taker, even on pitches not exactly suited for him.
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He has not been making life miserable for batsmen in T20s alone. Who can forget his seven-wicket haul against the West Indies in Afghanistan’s first ODI victory over a full-member (outside Zimbabwe). A side on a slide for sure, but one that is filled with some fine talent and a big hitter in Evin Lewis. Defending a modest total of 212, Rashid simply took it upon himself to win it for his side. While it was mesmerising to watch, it wasn’t entirely surprising. An average of 21.40 across 44 ODI games tells you his efficiency is not limited only to four over spells. He can read the game extremely well and can out-think the batsmen even in the longer versions of the game.

Rashid’s quick arm almost wrong-footed bowling action gives him a distinct advantage at this stage of his career. When legends like MS Dhoni talk about playing him out, it tells you how difficult teams are finding him to pick right now. But this won’t last forever as we saw with other mystery spinners. He will have to build on this. He will have to continuously add more to his repertoire. As I am sure you would have noticed, most of his successes have come in the shorter formats so far. With Afghanistan set to play India in a Test match soon, this will be his biggest test. But trust Rashid to give his typical “I will get you” smile and conquer even his biggest obstacle.

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