Rashid Khan: A force to reckon with

Rashid's amazing striking prowess in this should have made the T-20 contests into a 16-over contest for the rivals as they have to invariably deduct his four overs — he got hit only twice for over 40 in this edition of the IPL!

Sunrisers Hyderabad's Rashid Khan celebrates after castling Kolkata Knight Riders' Robin Uthappa.   -  K.R. Deepak

He was playing with a tennis ball on the streets of Jalalabad in Afghanistan when the national team was playing in the 2012 T-20 World Cup in Sri Lanka.

And, Rashid Khan, then 13-year-old, would not have dreamt of being the best leg-spinner, as cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar described after the Afghan's brilliant all-round performance helped Sunrisers Hyderabad defeat Kolkata Knight Riders in the second qualifier at the Eden Gardens on Friday. Rashid's exploits — 34 runs off 10 balls with the bat, three wickets, two catches and one run out — helped Sunrisers enter the final of the IPL.

Read: All-round Rashid steers SRH into final

By all means, Rashid's amazing striking prowess in this IPL should have made the T-20 contests into a 16-over contest for the rivals as they have to invariably deduct his four overs — he got hit only twice for over 40 in this edition! And, to the misfortune of the opposition, he picks wickets to mount the pressure — be it while setting or chasing targets. 

What makes Rashid such a big threat? Well, in this edition, which has seen the leggies hold their own even as some explosive batsmen have grabbed the attention, it is his quick pace.

In the shortest format, he makes life even more miserable by not even giving that extra second to sort him out for he is always in a hurry. And, the way he mixes all those weapons in a leg-spinner's armoury.

 

By his own confession when he was first picked by Sunrisers last season for Rs 4 crores, it was never easy for Rashid to play the game back home in Jalalabad — hotbed of terrorism for long. It has been a truly incredible journey so far for him and he is grateful to his parents (he is one of the seven brothers and four sisters in his family) and the Afghan Board for supporting players like him in trying circumstances.

SRH's Rashid Khan hits a six en route his 10-ball 34 against KKR.   -  K.R. Deepak

 

And, it is unmistakable that Rashid must have picked a few tricks sharing his thoughts with bowling coach and spin legend Mutthiah Muralitharan and the likes of mentor VVS Laxman and head coach Tom Moody. "Yes, we keep discussing a lot of things and I am glad for the kind of support I have been getting," he said recently. 

That he is a willing learner was evident when Rashid walked across to have a long chat with the Aussie legend Shane Warne before the Rajasthan Royals-Sunrisers clash in Hyderabad in this edition. “If we leg-spinners get the line and length right, we can bowl against anyone in any conditions,” he says even his big-hitting ability is another headache for the opposition. 

 

Is Rashid unplayable? Certainly not. If a batsman gets rooted to the crease like Andre Russell must have realised — failing to read even the wrong-un the other night. If any batsman has the skills to play off the backfoot, then this Afghan, who is clearly in the form of his life, can be handled with more comfort.

And, this is what MS Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings should be looking for if they were to get the better of Sunrisers in the high-voltage final on Sunday.