England leg spinner Adil Rashid, who will be a key weapon during their World T20 campaign in the UAE, is as excited about making his debut in Indian Premier League. Image Credit: AFP

Kolkata: There will be a lot of curiosity value around Adil Rashid, a key member of England’s white ball squad, as he makes a somewhat delayed debut in the IPL in the UAE leg this year. The leg spinner from Yorkshire, who was a part of Eoin Morgan’s 2019 ICC World Cup winning squad, is excited at the break offered by Punjab Kings and the fact that it will set him up nicely for the T20 World Cup which follows immediately after.

‘‘It’s a nice feeling to be part of probably the best league in the world. For me, I think it’s a good opportunity to learn,’’ says the 33-year-old, who will be possibly assuming the leader’s role in the spin bowler’s group - which also has the exciting young leg spinner Ravi Bishnoi and Murugan Ashwin.

Speaking to Gulf News during an exclusive interview on zoom, the soft-spoken Rashid sounded keen to pick the brains of Anil Kumble, the legendary Indian leggie who had been the head coach of Punjab Kings for two seasons now. ‘‘See, he was one of the best of his times and I will definitely try to pick his brains by speaking to him. I will try to learn and gather valuable information on how to bowl in these conditions - am looking forward to working with him in that sense,’’ said Rashid.


While the IPL corners most of the eyeballs in the sport globally whenever it’s played, the second phase of the season in the UAE has a bigger context to it with the T20 World Cup getting underway in Oman and the UAE immediately after it. England, who lost out so dramatically in the final of the 2016 edition, will be looking to add the crown to with their 2019 ICC World Cup triumph with Rashid definitely an ace in the pack for Morgan.

Does he, then, see the IPL stint as a dress rehearsal for the World T20 next month? ‘‘It should be a good experience with the World Cup following immediately afterwards. It will be a big advantage for the players out here as they can have a close look at the pitches, ground and weather. It’s always good to have a good preparation under the belt,’’ Rashid felt.

The choice of Rashid by Punjab Kings, Tabraiz Shamsi by Rajasthan Royals or Wanindu Hasaranga by Royal Challengers Bangalore once again highlights the importance of the art of wrist spinners in T20 cricket. Rashid, owner of 65 wickets in 62 T20I appearances for England, feels there is a growing role for spinners who can turn the ball both ways - and thereby plant a seed of doubt in the batsman’s mind.

‘‘The demand is not only for a leg spinner, but it could be an off spinner with his doosra as well as a left-arm spinner’s delivery coming in with the arm,’’ he said.

Rashid has landed in Dubai right after a successful stint in the inaugural ‘The Hundred’ in the UK, where he finished as the top wicket-taker with 12 wickets. Asked if he finds himself in a good space after such a performance - so important for a leg spinner - Rashid refused to read much into it and said it’s time to hit the ground running again.

‘‘It’s nice to have the rhythm on my side but I will know how I am doing in the next five to six days when I start practice with the players,’’ he said.

When the IPL 2021 had to be suspended in India in early May due to the Covid-19 threat, Punjab Kings were not in the best of shape - sitting in sixth position with three wins out of eight matches. Rashid, however, feels there is always a room for turnaround.

‘‘In T20, anything can happen. There are times when you lose three to four matches on the trot and can slip. However, if we win the next five out of six remaining games, you are right in the mix to make the play-offs,’’ he said.

Finally, how does he rate the chances of a ‘double’ for England?

‘‘I think it’s exciting times for us, not just England but everyone. As fas as we are concerned, we have a very good team and are extremely confident, We got to give 100 per cent, be focused but not look too far ahead. Basically, its all about taking one game at a time,’’ he added.