IPL 2018: Chasing a target of 140 against Sunrisers Hyderabad in the first qualifier of the 11th edition of the Indian Premier on Tuesday, Chennai Super Kings were struggling at 24/3 when skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni arrived at the crease. Knowing what MSD is capable of, there was a calm around the Wankhede Stadium as a sea of yellow engulfed the stands. However, the Afghan sensation, Rashid Khan bowled a perfect googly to former team India captain, completely foxing the old warhorse and sent the Wankhede crowd into stunned silence.
Even though SRH lost the match, Rashid Khan finished with the figures of 4-0-11-2 which included 14 dots, once again showing ‘The Afghan Impact’ on the league. Bought for Rs 9 cr, the 19-year-old leg spinner has defied all odds to pick up 18 wickets at an average of 23.05 and unbelievable economy rate of 6.91 in 15 matches.
What makes Rashid Khan a valuable player is the times in which he bowls and the wickets he picks. Khan has managed to get rid of world-class players in the league and clean bowled the likes of AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli, Jos Buttler and KL Rahul in IPL 2018.
Watch Rashid Khan getting rid of KL Rahul with a beauty:
B̵e̵n̵d̵ ̵i̵t̵ ̵l̵i̵k̵e̵ ̵B̵e̵c̵k̵h̵a̵m̵
Spin it like an Afghan Jalebi.
— Hotstar (@hotstartweets) April 26, 2018
Despite bowling in the powerplay or at death, he has managed to get 146 dots – which is the second highest in the tournament after Umesh Yadav – a bowler who was hardly used towards the latter half of the innings by Virat Kohli.
When the Indian Premier League a decade ago, it was impossible to imagine an Afghanistan player have such an impact on the game. Back then, the Aussies were measured in gold, the South Africans were the biggest match-winners, Sri Lankans were in high demand and even the Pakistanis managed to attract high bids.
In the 11th season though, the Pakistanis are no more a part of the IPL, only two Sri Lankans (Dushanta Chameera and Akila Dananjaya) were able to find buyers, South Africans were made to warm the bench (apart from AB de Villiers) and there was not a single Aussie captain in the league!
While Rashid is still holding the baton for Afghan cricket, another spinner from his nation made his presence felt, bamboozling the best in the business – Virat Kohli. Seventeen-year-old Mujeeb-ur-Rahman left the Indian captain stunned with a similar delivery which Rashid got the better of Dhoni.
Bought for Rs 4 crore by Kings XI Punjab, Mujeeb, who already has several firsts to his name, finished the season with 14 wickets in 11 matches at a highly impressive average of 20.64 and an economy rate of 6.99 as KXIP finished on the 7th spot after a strange season.
There is a general belief that had Mujeeb been fit for the last three games, Punjab may have made it to the playoffs, given that it needed just one win from those matches.
When Mujeeb got rid of Virat Kohli:
— Mirwais Ashraf (@MirwaisAshraf16) April 13, 2018
Ravichandran Ashwin was so impressed by this young spinner that he pushed himself to a supporting role with Mujeeb often bowling in the powerplays and death overs. He even defended 17 runs off the last over against an in-form and well-settled Shreyas Iyer.
However, the one area where Rashid has an upper hand on his compatriot is his all-around abilities. Apart from being a world-class bowler, he is also an excellent fielder and a brilliant reader of the game. The same cannot be said for Mujeeb.
From whatever we saw in this season, he is like the primary school fielder who allows the easiest of the balls to pass. Having said that, Mujeeb is only 17 and has enough time to work on other aspects of his game.
Another Afghan player who was a part of IPL this year but didn’t get enough chance to prove his mettle is Mohammad Nabi. The hard-hitting all-rounder was tried by Sunrisers Hyderabad in a couple of games but failed to cement his place due to the ever-growing competition between the overseas stars.
The highly impressive aspect of Rashid’s game was that not all his wickets came on spin-friendly tracks. In the qualifier against CSK, the conditions in Wankhede were helping seamers such that MS Dhoni who is usually fond of spinners, didn’t use Harbhajan Singh at all. Still, Rashid finished with an economy of 2.75 – gold in any format of the game.
Rashid’s mystery was another reason why Sunrisers Hyderabad wanted the best Indian wicketkeeper available to support their trump card. With MS Dhoni already retained by Chennai Super Kings, SRH went for Wriddhiman Saha who is India’s Test gloveman.
The Afghanistan cricket team is set to make its Test debut against India later this year in Bengaluru and the prospect of Rashid Khan and Mujeeb-ur-Rahman bowling on the 4th or 5th day of the match to an Indian batting order minus Virat Kohli, seems just mouth-watering.