Former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, one of the finest players of spin bowling, unearthed the talent of Rashid Khan during his tenure as Afghanistan coach. Inzamam was batting in the nets when Rashid, 17-years-old at that point troubled him with his googly. Inzamam's plea to have Rashid in the squad for the tour of Zimbabwe wasn’t welcomed, but he insisted on taking the youngster to Africa and the rest is history.
Two years after his ODI debut, Rashid earned the highest ever bid for an associate player at the IPL auction when Sunrisers Hyderabad paid him US$ 600,000 (INR four crores). Today, he is highly sought after by various franchises around the world and an IPL millionaire with Sunrisers paying him US$ 1.4 million (INR nine crores).
Rashid also has a County Cricket contract with Sussex and that experience is going to help him improve further.
Rashid’s rise has been quite astonishing. Earlier this year, he became the fastest bowler to claim 100 ODI wickets achieving the milestone in his 44th game. He broke the record held by Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc, who had required 52 matches.
On Thursday, as Afghanistan beat Bangladesh in their final Group ‘B’ game in the Asia Cup in Abu Dhabi, Rashid equalled veteran Mohammad Nabi’s tally of 112 wickets as the joint highest wicket taker of his country. Nabi has already featured in 103 ODIs while Rashid will be playing his 50th ODI on Friday against Pakistan.
Rashid is not a big spinner of the ball. His strengths are his accuracy and the speed with which he bowls, and his googly is very hard to pick. He bowls wicket to wicket and given his speed, it is difficult for batsmen to step outside and play him. He has modelled his bowling after his idol Shahid Afridi, but on Thursday, on his 20th birthday as Afghanistan beat Bangladesh, it was his Afridi like batting that turned the game in Afghan’s favour.
Rashid walked in with the scorecard reading 160 for seven in the 41st over of the innings. Afghanistan finished with 255 for seven thanks largely to Rashid, who smashed 57 off 32 balls with eight fours and a six, sharing an unbroken 95-run stand for the eighth wicket with Gulbadin Naib.
The Afghan innings finished with a flurry of boundaries and at the end of it all, Naib, the non-striker greeted the young sensation with a salaam. In the stands, the Afghan fans were hailing their hero with dances and music. There is a buzz about everything that Rashid does. His energy levels are astonishing and was showcased by the direct hit he produced to run out Abu Hider.
Rashid is the number ranked bowler in official ICC Rankings in ODIs. He holds the top rank in T20 cricket.
The Afghans are doing something similar to what Sri Lanka did with Muttiah Muralitharan during their hey days. Arjuna Ranatunga would introduced Muralitharan into the attack only after the 20th over and he would continue to bowl from one end without giving away much.
“I come late to bowl because I can bowl dot balls and put the pressure on the batsmen. I think the wicket changes behaviour here every match so we look to stay positive in our approach. We don't want to focus too much on result. We just want to give our 100 per cent on field,” Rashid said after his team finished unbeaten in the group stage.
Earlier in the week, the Afghans had come up with a giant killing performance sending Sri Lanka home and now they have beaten Bangladesh. Their performances against stronger neighbours India and Pakistan will be closely watched. They have had an excellent 2018 having won 13 of their 17 ODIs this year and Rashid’s efforts were key for their success.
Given their upbringing in the war torn Afghanistan with many hardships, cricket has thrown the youngest cricketing nation a lifeline and they have grabbed it from both hands. How much the Afghans are enjoying the campaign is evident by their celebrations. Every milestone is special for them and there is a breath of fresh air about them.
If Afghanistan’s batting clicks, with Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid, they have the bowling to trouble any opposition. “Definitely, we have the talent and the skills to win. We need to keep our nerves calm and cool. We just need to enjoy our games, and not think about who we are playing, we just need to play the ball, not the player,” Rashid said.
“We have good talent, good spin bowling, batting and fast bowling. Those who will be the winners will be the ones who control their nerves. There is a chance. We can beat any side. We need to stay calm and express ourselves,” Rashid added.