Rashid Khan : Is the Afghan the most successful leg-spinner now?

The rise and rise of the "Afghan Afridi" as he joins the Sunrisers to spur him more.

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In the IPL auctions last February, amidst the biggest stars from the elite cricket playing nations across the globe, one teenager from an associate ICC member and that too from a team-in-exile successfully did make headlines – Rashid Khan was picked by the defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad for a whooping 4 crores in Indian rupees.

Rashid Khan Arman, who made his international as well as major professional debut in the tour to Zimbabwe late 2015 within a month of turning 17, became the third Associate player to be picked at the biggest cricket auction of the year after his teammate Mohammad Nabi (picked up by Sunrisers just minutes before him) and Netherlands’ Ryan ten Doeschate who represented the Kolkata Knight Riders for five seasons till 2015. But what made the “googlyman” the pick of the trio is his salary that is eight times his base price of 50 lakh.

So the question now is why is he the most sought after bowler despite hailing from a nation that does not get to play top-flight cricket regularly? The answer perhaps lies in the exploits of the Afghan spinner in his a year and a half career. Let us have a look at his international stats.

Format Matches Wickets Average Economy Best
ODIs 26 53 16.69 4.11 6/43
T20Is 24 40 13.82 6.07 5/3

 

The figures look stirring and coupled with the fact that the leggie has taken thrice four or more wickets in an innings – including a fifer and a six-fer. The spinner, nicknamed as “Afghan Afridi” because of his idolizing the Pakistan all-rounder, was at his destructive best against the recent Ireland tour at Greater Noida. In the limited overs, he took 9 wickets in the three T20Is followed by another 16 from the five ODIs – helping Afghanistan win both the series. Earlier, the wonder youngster had a decent Zimbabwean tour early this year – in the middle of which he bagged his IPL contract – picking 10 wickets from five ODIs. He also played his part in picking up eight wickets in the Intercontinental match against Ireland – that took Afghanistan atop the leaderboard in the premier first-class Associate engagement.

If the above stats fell short of why he is the most rewarded leggie at the moment, then let me tell you that since 2016, Rashid Khan has picked up more international wickets than any other spinner apart from the offie Ravichandran Ashwin and left-arm orthodox Ravindra Jadeja. The other leg-spinner in that elite list seems to be another Rashid – Adil from England. In contrast to the Englishman’s 72 wickets from 45 outings across the formats, the Afghan outshone him with 86 from 43.

Another striking feature of Rashid Khan is that he picks up wickets at vital junctions of the game and thus helps turn the tide of the match in the favour of his team. A list displaying the batting order-wise scalps of his will make it better for understanding.

Batting position Wickets taken Average
1 10 38.70
2 6 56.16
3 7 36.57
4 14 17.85
5 13 21.07
6 8 17.87
7 13 7.84
8 9 3.88
9 5 2.80
10 5 1.40
11 3 3.66

 

Although the average at the top three is not so striking, what looks amazing is that he has picked up wickets across the batting line-up and he looks really impressive in the middle-order and the figures will certainly tell one that the tailenders truly get puzzled to see through his leg-spin.

Khan made his first-class debut when Afghanistan played an “unofficial English” side at Abu Dhabi last December. Though Afghanistan lost the close match, the leg-spinner shone with both the bat and the ball. The Afghan rookie picked up four wickets and scored a crucial unbeaten 25 in the first innings before he made his debut more memorable by scalping eight of the Englishmen later in the match and ended up top-scoring in the final innings with a 73-ball 52. Apart from being a go-to bowler, Rashid Khan is also a handy batsman – with two fifties against his name in the ODIs. Both the innings came against Ireland.

In the recent IPL too, the street-smart spinner who relies more on line and length than turn and bounce picked up six wickets in the first three games itself. In the opening match of the season, Khan accounted for Royal Challengers Bangalore opener Mandeep Singh and Australian batsman Travis Head. In the next against Gujarat Lions, the leg-spinner dismissed the USP of his rival batting – swashbuckling Brendon McCullum, skipper Suresh Raina and devastating Aaron Finch – all three internationals caught on the pads. Against Mumbai Indians – though in a losing cause – the Afghan hero dazzled once again as he hit captain Rohit Sharma on the legs, the latter failing to read his straight-one. In fact, more than half of the Afghan’s international wickets came in either bowled or leg-before – thus it is no surprise that five of his six IPL scalps came in the same manner. In all, Rashid Khan has bowled 31 dots so far – that is almost 43% of balls delivered.

It is just the beginning of the IPL season and the next month or so is certainly going to be crucial for the costliest Associate player in the league’s decade-long history to create a legacy of his own in the middle of the shining stars of the world.

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