Perhaps the first international player to grow up in Afghanistan in what might be called a cricketing family, Mujeeb Ur Rahman learned much of his cricket on his uncle Noor Ali Zadran’s farm-cum-cricket academy in Khost. But Mujeeb’s manifold variations are largely self-taught, with YouTube videos the primary coach that taught him to bowl the smörgåsbord of off spin and carrom balls interspersed with wrist spin, and most effectively a googly which he deploys with a guile beyond his years.
He was just 16 when he made his ODI debut, becoming the first male cricketer born in this century to play an ODI, taking 4 for 24 against Ireland and became the youngest ever to take a five wicket haul just weeks later when he took 5/50 against Zimbabwe.
Still just 18 years old, Mujeeb made his ODI debut only 17 months ago (one of only two players in the squad to debut within the last three years) and is already 5th in Afghanistan’s all-time ODI wicket-taking tables with 51 scalps. Asghar Afghan tended to use him early, often sharing him the new ball with a seamer in the power play when the batsmen are looking to hit high and long, making Mujeeb’s 3.75 economy rate all the more impressive. The other consequence is that Mujeeb spends most of his time bowling to specialist batsmen, and indeed almost 60% of his 51 ODI wickets are those of top 3 batsmen, whilst tail-enders account for only 15%.
In what should be an unenviable task for a spinner in modern one day cricket, opening the bowling against specialist batsmen with little protection in the field, Mujeeb’s unique brand of spin bowling brings consistent success.