Mujeeb – magical and mysterious

Coming from a war-torn nation, spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman has turned himself into one of its young heroes through his performances at the highest level.

Kings XI Punjab spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman is the the youngest cricketer to play the IPL.   -  Vivek Bendre

 

Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s life is all about twists and turns. Coming from a war-torn nation, he has turned himself into one of its young heroes. Mujeeb — picked for Rs 4 crore at the Indian Premier League auction by Kings XI Punjab — is one of the brightest stars in the glamorous cricket league.

He achieved all this by turning a cricket ball in his distinct style.

“I don’t think there has been any other bowler like him in international cricket,” K.N. Ananthapadmanabhan, a former leg-spinner with 344 First-class wickets who umpired while Mujeeb bowled in this IPL, told Sportstar on Monday. “The way he bowls a googly using his fingers, more than the wrist, is amazing.”

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With one such googly, he bowled Virat Kohli through the gate in Bengaluru last month. If the Indian captain, with more than 17,000 international runs, failed to read it, it was no surprise that the uncapped Jofra Archer was bamboozled by a similar ball at Holkar Cricket Stadium here on Sunday.

The mystery spinner took three wickets in four balls to play a key role in Kings XI’s win over Rajasthan Royals. The effort fetched him his first Man-of-the-Match award in the tournament.

He is now the fifth-highest wicket-taker — 12 from nine matches. His economy rate of 6.85 is second only to Sunrisers Hyderabad’s Sandeep Sharma among the leading bowlers.

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Mujeeb has already shown that he could deliver even at the death. He bowled the last over in Delhi when Delhi Daredevils needed 17. He conceded only 12, justifying captain R. Ashwin’s faith in him.

When Mujeeb made his ODI debut for Afghanistan last year, he became the first male cricketer born in the 21st century to play international cricket. He is also the youngest to play at the IPL.

His outstanding performances for Afghanistan must have caught the Kings’attention. In the final of the ICC World Cup Qualifiers at Harare in March, he took 4/43 as Afghanistan stunned West Indies.

He finished the tournament with 17 wickets, the same as his compatriot and champion leg-spinner Rashid Khan. Among his victims in the final was Chris Gayle, now his teammate.

You could only wonder what the next turn in Mujeeb’s life could be.