Hyderabad: The abruptly curtailed season of the IPL 2021 brought to an end to what was turning out to be a pathetic tournament for Sunrisers Hyderabad. The team was struggling at the bottom of the points table and nothing seemed to be going right. Just before the tournament was suspended, skipper David Warner was sacked for his own lack of form as well as the team’s insipid performance.
But one of the players who caught the eye was leg spinner Rashid Khan. He was among the top five wicket takers of the suspended IPL 2021. His style of bowling, pushing the ball quickly through the air, reminds viewers of the bowling of the famous Pakistani star Shahid Afridi. There is the same hustle and bustle. Rashid Khan gives the batsmen very little time to take stock of the situation, just as Afridi used to do.
According to the statistics provided to siasat.com by one of Hyderabad’s most experienced statisticians Sami Ali, the Sunrisers bowler Rashid had taken 10 wickets for 172 runs in seven matches when the tournament was suspended. He had an economy rate of 6.14. In the overall table for bowlers in IPL 2021, Rashid was in fifth place. Ahead of him there were Harshal Patel of RCB (in first place with 17 wickets), followed by Avesh Khan of Delhi Capitals, Chis Morris of Rajasthan Royals and Rahul Chahar of Mumbai Indians.
The fact that Rashid was surging ahead of established bowling stars like Mohammed Shami, Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah and others speaks volumes for his effectiveness and consistency. He was well on the way to equal or surpass his commendable performance of last year when he had taken 20 wickets for 344 runs from 16 matches with an economy rate of 5.37. In 2020, he finished in sixth place in the wicket takers table. Incidentally Kagiso Rabada, Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult had been among the top three wicket takers last year.
Three years ago, in 2018, Sunrisers Hyderabad had inducted Rashid Khan for a fee of Rs. 9 crores which had made him Afghanistan’s first cricketing millionaire. And since then Rashid has fully justified his selection. Moreover Rashid has a very potent weapon, which is his deceptive googly. It is a delivery that he can use perfectly to pry out the well set batsmen. As an agile fielder, he is an asset to any captain and any team in international cricket now.
But his supporters do not exist only in the stands. Among his teammates too he has great friends and admirers. This was evident when his two Sunrisers teammates David Warner and Kane Williamson joined Rashid in his Ramadan fast. The Afghan bowler was seen in a video asking his teammates about the fast. “How are you feeling?” Khan asks Warner. To which Warner replies: “I am good but I’m very hungry and thirsty.” When the same question was put to Williamson the answer was just a brief “Good”.
After Rashid created headlines at the age of 17, the wily spinner has become one of the most recognised faces in world cricket. He can be ranked among the stars of international cricket now and has perfected his craft to a remarkable extent. It goes to his credit that he has been able to accomplish all this despite the initial opposition from his family members when they learnt that he planned to make a career in cricket. However later his family relented and began to support him.
Rashid Khan has now become a symbol of success in his own country and an inspiration to many young players. But he himself remains a man of simple philosophy and outlook. He said in an interview recently that whenever he sees all the love from his fans, he feels like it is all a dream. But he is happy that the youth want to take up cricket seriously and wish to change the image of their country through sport.
Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.