Published on February 20th, 2018 | by Rohit Sankar


We need to talk about Rashid Khan

“Rashid Khan is the new sensation in world cricket. Afghanistan’s hopes of qualifying for next year’s ICC World Cup depends a lot on the young shoulders of Rashid. He might be young, but his shoulders are reliable”. 

The 2011 English movie ‘We need to talk about Kevin’ describes a teenage boy who commits brutal murders within high school premises. A mesmeric blend of drama and horror, the film garnered huge attention even amidst critics.

On a total context, ‘We need to talk about Rashid Khan’. The Afghan teen sensation is as vastly different from Kevin Khatchadourian, the lead protagonist in the movie, as apples and oranges but is equally brutal and as much a nightmare for batsmen with his vicious variations and relentless pursuit of wickets.

Still a teenager, Rashid Khan is the toast of the cricketing World and the knight of Afghanistan who are marking their step to Test cricket this year with a one-off Test against India. If anything, they are as confident as any side in the World of toppling over the Indians on their home turf – something the Australians and South Africans would hardly believe they themselves would be able to do. The confidence has stemmed from the supreme, majestic talent called Rashid Khan at their disposal.

Since his ODI debut in October 2015, Rashid has taken 86 wickets in 37 matches at a stunning average of 13.26 and an economy of 3.82. Forget the fact that no bowler has taken more ODI wickets during this time frame (Adil Rashid comes second by some distance with 69 scalps), it is Rashid Khan’s insane strike rate that has put him on the World map.

A breathtaking strike rate of 20.8 means that he could well be on his way to becoming the fastest to 100 wickets in ODIs, a record held by Mitchell Starc at the moment. Of his 37 matches (35 innings), only once has he conceded at a rate of more than six an over, this is the age of short boundaries, watermelon-sized bats and a proactive shift to a more attacking batting style.

If you think that is a stupendous feat wait till you hear the rest. Of his 37 ODIs (35 innings) only four times has he gone wicketless in an innings. Phew! That is some stat to take in especially considering where he is from and the herculean feats he has achieved at this tender age. Forget that this has come against minnows for his armoury is so fully packed that even the bigger nations won’t have it easy against the leg-spinner.

“We have just played with Associate members but now it will be a total change of scenario for us. The guys are working very hard on the field especially in fitness, bowling and batting. So we are preparing ourself for the bigger tests and challenges. Inshallah we can do well. We have the ability, we have the talent and we just to neutralise that in the right way”, Rashid had told last year.

Sterner tests definitely await him but for now he is basking in the glory of a superlative start to year 2018. The latest demolition job completed was against the hapless Zimbabweans who were thrashed 4-1 by Rashid Khan more than Afghanistan as a whole.

In the five matches, Rashid played a crucial role, taking 16 wickets with his plethora of variations and bamboozling clueless Zimbabwean batsmen so much so that Brendan Taylor could be eyeing the next flight back to England.

The Man of the Series was a given even before his sensational heroics with the bat in the fifth ODI. The 29 ball 43 showed that inspite of his mind-boggling returns with the ball, Rashid was prepared to do the hard yards and work on his batting.

There will be odd days when he might go wicketless or concedes a lot of runs but the youngster realises that it is all part of the process.

“I just tried my best to bowl in a good-length area. It didn’t matter if I get wickets or not but my main target was to bowl in a good-length area”, Rashid had said after the Intercontinental Cup which Afghanistan won.

Bigger tests await them this year as the World Cup qualifiers come knocking. Afghanistan are favourites to go through alongside West Indies but the opponents cannot be taken too lightly. Quite a few associate nations are building up a strong squad and Afghanistan, for all the hullabaloo around them, would be tested. Their hope rests on pretty young shoulders, but very reliable ones. We will need to talk much more about Rashid Khan once the qualifiers get under way.

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A cricket enthusiast striving to convey the finer details of the game in a capsule. I hope to present a bird's eye view of the game as I see it to the readers. PS: I am smitten by the likes of ABD but crush on pace bowlers who can make the ball talk.

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