Dubai: If you want to know the importance of being Rashid Khan in world T20 cricket today - be it in terms of recognition as the premier spinner of Afghanistan or in franchise cricket - just look up the list of teams he has played for.
Here you go: Asia XI, ICC World XI, Afghanistan Under-19, Sussex, Afghanistan, Adelaide Strikers, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Barbados Royals, Guyana Amazon Warriors, Cumilla Warriors, Quetta Gladiators, Lahore Qalandars, Band-e-Amir Dragons, Maratha Arabians, Kabul Zwanan, Durban Heat, Rotterdam Rhinos, Trent Rockets - a staggering one.
It will perhaps be no exaggeration to say that after the celebrated author Khaled Husseini, the 23-year-old cricketer is one of the country’s best cultural ambassadors in the past decade. Husseini had migrated to the US while Rashid is more of an international citizen - playing his trade across the cricket-playing countries throughout the year to bring tremendous value to the teams. This is not to suggest that he is far removed from the interests of his country as Rashid pleaded to the international community to restore peace in his strife-torn homeland during the Taliban incursion in August.
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“Dear World Leaders! My country is in chaos, thousand of innocent people, including children & women, get martyred everyday, houses & properties being destructed. Thousand families displaced..Don’t leave us in chaos. Stop killing Afghans & destroying Afghanistan. We want peace,” he had tweeted in mid-August while his NGO had started a fundraiser to reach out aid to the displaced people. Mohammed Nabi, current captain of the Afghanistan team in the ongoing T20 World Cup in the UAE, also joined the issue - but Rashid stood out because of his stature as one of the most recognisable faces of his country.
At a phase in global cricket when the role of leg spinners have acquired a renewed importance in all formats of the game, there are quite a few accomplised practitioners of the craft - be it a Yuzvendra Chahal, Yasir Shah or Adel Rashid. What is it that makes Rashid so special that in December last year, he was adjudged as ICC Men’s T20 Player of the Decade?
The other six nominees for the recognition were: Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Lasith Malinga, Imran Tahir and Aaron Finch. It’s a subjective decision alright - but his average of 12.62 per wicket and strike-rate of 12.3 during the period under ICC review (January 1, 2011 to October 7, 2020) certainly made a case about his effectiveness in a space of four overs.
Rashid, who has a springing action, is not exactly your conventional leggie - he is faster through the air and relies primarily on his googlies and flippers. His ability to provide breakthroughs on a consistent basis, along with the economy rate - has remained consistent despite the over-exposure he may have suffered in this age of video graphics and analysis. There are very batsmen who attack him - and it’s a trait which may continue on the slow UAE surfaces where has just played a IPL.
Appearing in his second T20 World Cup, Rashid feels spinners are always effective on pitches at three venues in the UAE - and his experience of the conditions here after playing enough international and franchise cricket (IPL, PSL and Afghan Premier League) should serve him well again. “Conditions here are always good for spinners and it should be spinners’ World Cup,” Rashid was quoted as saying.
“Doesn’t matter how wickets are prepared here, it is always helpful for the spinners. Spinners will play a huge role in this World Cup. As we have seen in the IPL, spinners have brought back their team in the game. I feel that will be same in the World Cup as well. The best spinners will bring their team back in the game and win it,” he said in an interview
Given the fact he will be certainly one of the best spinners on view, one can wait with Rashid Khan magic to unfold in the coming days - starting on Monday against Scotland.
Rashid’s greatest hits
5/3 vs Ireland, March 10, 2017
5/27 vs Ireland, February 24, 2019
4/12 vs Bangladesh, June 5, 2018
4/17 vs Ireland, August 22, 2018
4/25 vs Ireland, February 23, 2019
3/11 vs Zimbabwe, March 12, 2016
3/13 vs Bangladesh, June 3, 2018
3/14 vs UAE, December 18, 2016