Ali Khan
Ali Khan Image Credit: Twitter

Meet Ali Khan, the cricketer from the United States. The first American to sign up for the Indian Premier League, Khan is not a stranger to the T20 leagues of the world; he’s played in the West Indies, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The Kolkata Knight Riders have signed up the 29-year-old as a replacement for England seamer Harry Gurney, who pulled out of the IPL with a shoulder injury. That’s fortuitous considering that Khan had gone unsold in two auctions. Perhaps, this is his chance to show what IPL has been missing.

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IPL has been a dream for Khan, who learned to bowl fast in the streets of Punjab in Pakistan. “I was so close in the 2019 IPL. My name was there in the auction, and when I didn’t get picked, I cried a lot. I was hopeful of getting a team. But that has motivated me to give my best shot whenever I step on to the field. Yes, playing in the IPL is one of my dreams…,” Khan told Anis Sajan, MD, Danube Group on his chat show Cricket Unplugged with Anis Sajan.

The fast-medium bowler has been in good nick this year, turning in an impressive performance for Trinbago Knight Riders. They won the Caribbean Premier League remaining unbeaten in all the 12 games. Khan’s contribution was eight wickets from eight matches at an economy rate of 7.43. He could well bring that form into the IPL in the UAE. At least, that’s what the Kolkata Knight Riders will be hoping.

Born in Attock, Pakistan, Muhammad Ahsan Ali Khan emigrated to the US with his parents at the age of 18; a time when his cricketing skills were blossoming. Much of his cricket in America was restricted to some T20 tournaments. But the ICC Americas’ open trial in Indianapolis in 2015 changed all that. It gave him a platform to showcase his skills, which attracted the attention of former West Indian pace ace Courtney Walsh.

The move that reshaped Khan’s career

That paved the way for his first big break: a stint with Guyana Amazon Warriors in the Caribbean Premier League in 2016. Khan played only one match, but the first delivery of his 3.5 overs fetched the wicket of Sri Lankan batting great Kumar Sangakkara. He soon became a regular in the US national team.

A hamstring injury left him in the cold the following year, and Khan lost his CPL contract with Guyana. But the West Indies has been a happy hunting ground for him. It was to provide the turning point in his cricketing career.

Trinbago Knight Riders captain Dwayne Bravo, who turns out for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL, was taken in by Khan’s pace and death bowling for the Winnipeg Hawks in the Global T20 Canada. His decision to sign up the American fast bowler turned out to be a smart move as Khan hustled 16 wickets from 12 matches making him one of the most successful bowlers in the league in 2018.

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The displays didn’t go unnoticed. The International Cricket Council chose Khan as one of the five breakout stars of the year. But his joy was shortlived as injury worries forced him to miss T20 International against the UAE.

Khan’s lone One-Day International for America was against Papua New Guinea in a third-place playoff in the ICC World Cricket League Division II. The US gained ODI status since it emerged as one of the top four teams in the tournament in Namibia. With 17 scalps, Khan emerged as the leading wicket-taker.

Khan’s chance to shine

The sight of Khan swinging the new ball and reversing the old ball is becoming a common sight in some of the T20 leagues. Besides Trinbago in the Caribbean Premier League, he has bowled for Khulna Titans in the Bangladesh Premier League and the Karachi Kings in the Pakistan Super League.

The time has come for Khan to unleash his yorkers in the Indian Premier League. Can he steer the Knight Riders from Kolkata to the IPL 2020 title? It did just that with Trinbago. Here’s the chance for Khan to live his dream.