Sweat trickled down Rashid Khan’s jersey as he walked into the press centre at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Sunday evening to address the media ahead of Gujarat Titans’ last home Indian Premier League fixture against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
The Afghan all-rounder was late by an hour, and as a handful of media personnel present at the venue waited for the interaction, visibly impatient, a nonchalant Rashid came in, took a sip of water and wiped his face. Over the last hour or so, he was busy batting in the nets, along with Abhinav Manohar. The two batted for a while in turns, and Rashid made sure that he was ready for Monday’s outing.
The Afghan spin bowling all-rounder gave a reminder of his batting ability in the previous game against Mumbai Indians when he smashed an unbeaten 79 off 32 balls, the highest score ever notched up by a No.8 batter in the history of the T20 league. It was also his maiden fifty in the IPL. Even as wickets tumbled at the other end, Rashid did not stop his carnage. He whacked the MI bowlers all over the Wankhede Stadium. It was an incredible batting effort, and Rashid is enjoying his freshly minted role, batting down the order at No.7 or No.8.
So far in the tournament, Rashid batted only in four innings and amassed 95 runs at an average of 95.00 and with a magnificent strike rate of 243.59.
Now, with the IPL heading into its last leg, Rashid wants to keep himself ready for whatever batting opportunities come his way. He does not want to tweak his batting position. “I am so happy to be batting at No.7 or No.8. When the team needs big runs, I feel I can deliver. I get enough opportunities in the nets to prepare for those positions where I get about 12 to 15 balls and I try to score the maximum for the team,” Rashid told Sportstar.
Rashid, arguably one of the finest spinners in the world now, is no stranger to playing cameos at international cricket. In the 86 ODIs for Afghanistan, Rashid has scored 1134 runs, which included five fifties. Even in ODIs, he has 361 runs under his belt, while his tally goes up to 106 in five Tests. And, most of these runs have come in while batting lower down the order.
“I have never thought of batting up the order. We already have those quality batters, who can give us good strike rates at any time. For me, No.7 or No.8 is the best position to bat at, at the moment. And, I am just enjoying playing there,” Rashid explained.
After moving to Gujarat Titans last season from Sunrisers Hyderabad, Rashid had a long chat with Titans head coach Ashish Nehra, who ensured that the communication was clear and every player knew about their roles. “Ashish bhai kept it very simple for us as a team. He made us realise that we should do what we need to do. Everyone is a professional, and they know what’s to be done. Everyone has played enough cricket, so they know what suits them,” Rashid said.
“If you feel that you need one hour of practice, you do it. If you want to train for two or three hours, you go for it. There’s no restriction. It’s not like you can only bat for 20 or 30 minutes and someone wants to bat more. Things are left to the players to decide how long they need to be in the nets. That helps…”
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Ever since taking charge as the Titans coach, Nehra has put players’ interests first and has given the players enough room to feel comfortable. “It has been made clear by him from day one that as long as you don’t feel satisfied, you can practice as much as you want to. And, that certainly has been a huge boost.”
So far, it has been a season to remember for Rashid as he tops the wicket-takers list with 23 scalps from 12 outings. And adding gloss to glory, the 24-year-old has also allowed his willow to do the talking!
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