Afghanistan is a country that does not have a home ground in their backyard due to their cricket board’s financial crisis. In 2016, Greater Noida’s Shahid Vijay Singh Pathik Sports Complex was adjudged as their home ground. In the last few years, Afghanistan have been massively improved and they finally made an entry into the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL) after their two players were picked in the IPL 2017 Auction. Both spinners, Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi, were roped in by the defending champions, Sunrisers Hyderabad.
At an age of 18, he became a million dollar baby; he was picked by SRH for 4 crores; he was given his debut IPL match ahead of his senior countryman Nabi; the leg-spinner, Rashid, became an instant hit when he drew first blood in the IPL 10’s opener game between Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and SRH. He had dismissed Mandeep Singh and Travis Head and finished with impressive figures of 2 for 36. Sunrisers won the match by 35 runs.
— SunRisers Hyderabad (@SunRisers) April 9, 2017
This is just the beginning!
The Sunrisers won the toss and Warner put Gujarat to bat first. Suresh Raina’s team was coming off a humiliating 10-wicket loss against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). While the hosts had won their opening match reasonably easily and Captain David Warner chose to go with an unchanged playing XI when they locked horns with Gujarat Lions (GL) in their second fixture of IPL 2017.
After a slow start, the visitors look to speed up as they grabbed 10 and 12 runs off the second and third over respectively. To put a brake in their innings, Warner experimented by giving the ball to his leg spinner, Rashid. He gave three runs off his first four and the fifth delivery happened to be the wicket-taking one. McCullum, who struggled against the teenager right from the beginning was trapped leg before wicket, in front of the middle stump. The on-field umpire, without any hesitation, lifted his finger.
The very next ball, Gujarat’s skipper Raina, while attempting a stroke over cover only managed a thick edge. However, Warner in the slips dropped it. On the second ball of his second over, he removed former No. 1 T20I batsman Aaron Finch. The delivery went outside off to only hit him plumb in front of the middle stump. Again, there was no uncertainty for the umpire to give it out. Whenever Warner handed him the ball, Rashid delivered for the team. The captain decided to continue with him as the Afghan was given a third consecutive over from the other end.
#SRH reaping the benefits of looking beyond traditional ponds to fish in. Bangladesh last year for the "Fizz", now Afghanistan for Rashid
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) April 9, 2017
On the final ball of his third over, he removed Gujarat’s key player and captain, Raina in the same fashion as Finch and McCullum. Rashid became the first bowler in an IPL match to dismiss three batsmen LBW. In his four overs, he was smashed for a boundary only on one instance. Dinesh Karthik managed to touch the ropes off Rashid’s bowling in the final over of the latter. The new inclusion of the Sunrisers yet again impressed with figures of 3 for 19. The cherry on the cake was his direct throw that got Dhawal Kulkarni run out towards the end of Gujarat’s innings. His excellent display of cricket helped the hosts to restrict Gujarat at 135 for 7 in 20 overs.
In reply, SRH skipper Warner remained unbeaten on 76 as he took SRH home with 27 balls to spare. He received immense support from countryman Moises Henriques from the other end, who also was not out on 52 as SRH won the game by nine wickets. However, there were no second thoughts about who would be deemed the Player of the Match.
— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) April 9, 2017
Along with the award, Rashid was also given the Purple Cap for being the current highest wicket-taker of the tournament. After two games in IPL 10 so far, the spinner has bagged five scalps, which is a commendable effort considering the fact that it’s his first appearance in the tournament.
It’s Afghanistan’s victory!
The Purple Cap and the Man of the Match awards are Rashid’s small steps towards making big in the tournament. These minute achievements don’t only mean a lot to him, but also to the entire cricket-crazy Afghanistan – the country that does not have the financial luxuries like its counterpart countries. There is a hidden story in Rashid that must inspire each one of us. “It’s a positive message back home in Afghanistan. Their players have helped me. The crowd here has given me a lot of support and love,” a delightful Rashid said after the match.
The team that won Sunrisers the title last year was just devoid of a quality spinner. Instead of going after big names, SRH picked Rashid in the auction, showing massive faith in the youngster. Fortunately for the team, Rashid has done justice to his role and it will be important for him to carry the same momentum if SRH aims to defend the title.
“He [Rashid] is a superstar in making,” Warner said after Sunrisers made two out of two wins in IPL 2017.
— Rashid Khan (@rashidkhan_19) April 9, 2017
This is just a beginning for a young and talented Rashid, who clearly possess the enormous potential of touching heights in cricket. He is surrounded by a valley of cricketing brains in Warner, Yuvraj Singh, Ashish Nehra, Tom Moody and Muttiah Muralitharan and undoubtedly, Sunrisers will play a significant role in nurturing him for the highest level.