The spectacular rise of Rashid Khan

He is just 19 year of age – 7094 days to be precise – and yet the success he has managed to achieve in such little time is truly phenomenal. Afghanistan’s leg-spinner Rashid Khan has been on a spectacular rise. He already has 133 international wickets to his name and is leaving a mark wherever he plays.

It came as no surprise, hence, when Rashid recently became the No.1-ranked ODI bowler in the ICC Player Rankings (jointly with India’s Jasprit Bumrah). He is now the only teenager and the youngest man to top the ICC bowling charts. The previous youngest was Pakistan’s Saqlain Mushtaq who was 7683 days old when in January 1998 he climbed the top of the ICC rankings.

This news comes as a cherry on the top for young Rashid Khan who has had an incredible last few seasons, and had just led his team to an emphatic 4-1 ODI series victory over Zimbabwe with 16 wickets for 127 runs, at a mind-boggling average of 7.9.

Rashid, who had recently been adjudged ICC Associate Cricketer of the Year as well, had captured 60 wickets in 2017 alone - a record for an Associate player in a calendar year. Of those wickets, 43 came in ODIs – the second-highest of the year and another record for a player from outside the Full Member countries.

Almost single-handedly, Rashid Khan has brought along Afghanistan’s rise with him. The canny leg-spinner has all the makings of becoming a world-class match-winner if he can keep honing his skills and not get distracted. With Afghanistan set to make their Test debut later this year and more opportunities in limited overs cricket likely to be coming their way, Rashid will remain their most vital player going ahead.

The rise and rise of Rashid Khan

Rashid Khan’s bowling style is a tad different for a leg-spinner – perhaps redolent of Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi, a cricketer that has long been his hero. He is fast and never gives the batsmen even a moment of rest. His fizzing googlies, arm-balls, sliders and flippers are difficult to pick from the wrist and inadvertently batsmen who are not adept in spin bowling end up committing mistakes. He is always at the batsmen’s stumps and hence the number of his LBWs and bowled dismissals are extremely high, making him a dangerous proposition.

In an ODI against West Indies last June, Rashid had staggering figures of 7-18 - the fourth-best figures in the history of ODIs. He single-handedly destroyed the West Indian batsmen with his array of varieties and led his team to a famous victory.

Earlier in March that year, Rashid had dismantled Ireland in an ODI with a spell of 6/43 at Greater Noida. Just a few weeks prior to that, the leg-spinner had produced another brilliant performance - extraordinary match-winning figures of 5-3 - against the same team in a T20I

Rashid has an economy rate of just 3.82 in ODIs and 5.86 in T20Is. These are amazing numbers and prove how valuable a commodity he is in limited overs cricket at present. Yes, it is also true that most of his games have come against countries like Ireland and Zimbabwe – teams that aren’t exactly known for their batting robustness. He will certainly be tested against stronger teams like Australia and India and on surfaces that don’t aid spin bowling. But with the skills that he has exhibited, one can safely assume that Rashid Khan is one for the future.

His terrific efforts in limited overs cricket has made him a great catch at various T20 leagues around the world and Rashid’s success in the Indian Premier League in India and the Big Bash League in Australia – he was the tournament’s highest wicket-taker this season – further proves how effective a bowler he is.

The coming days will be interesting for Rashid Khan. With all the attention and laurels he has received, it will be intriguing to watch how the young man handles himself in tougher situations. But for now, let’s doff our hats to this incredible talent.

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