Unpredictability is the name of the game in Twenty20 cricket. You can be brilliant one day and have a truly horrible day the next. Sometimes, it won’t even depend on how you are bowling or batting – in a format that places such a premium on time, you could be at the receiving end of something brilliant as you try to force the pace or go in search of wickets.
And that is why Rashid Khan’s freakishly brilliant consistency is worth its weight in gold. Day after day, match after match, in league after league – he produces performances that have made him arguably the most valuable bowler in the format.
The match against the Delhi Capitals was already nicely set-up due to Wriddhiman Saha’s superb 45-ball 87 at the top of the order for SRH. The knock, along with David Warner’s return to his attacking best, allowed Hyderabad to put up a massive 219 runs on the board.
It also meant that Delhi would have no option but to go after Rashid and that’s when the Afghan star is at his dangerous best.
Too often in the tournament, teams have chosen to simply play out the leg-spinner’s overs. They recognise the risk that comes with attacking Rashid but given the size of SRH’s total, DC had no option but to try and be a little more adventurous. And it didn’t turn out well.
Rashid came into the attack as soon as the Powerplay overs ended and that weaved a net of such strength that DC were falling all over themselves. He got Hetmyer with his first ball as the West Indies star went for an expansive slog. A brief moment of aggression is all Rashid needed.
Rashid then sent back Rahane back on the fifth ball to reduce DC to 55/4. This was not a case of aggression though, this was Rahane trying to play a textbook front-foot defensive stroke. But Rashid was good enough to counter that, too.
And then he proceeded to bowl 17 dot balls in his four-over spell and take another wicket with a batsman — Axar Patel — going for a big shot.
DC had no answer to his brilliance but they can perhaps take solace in the fact that they are not alone. No team has managed to truly dominate Rashid this season. His ER for the season stands at an incredible 5.00.
“The ball came out nicely, but we won the game more importantly,” said Rashid Khan after the game. “The wicket was helping a lot. The more you bowl in the right areas. To bowl economically is what I am focusing on, whether I get wickets or not... I focus on bowling dot balls and it helps me get wickets and also helps to take wickets at the other end.”
Rashid Khan added: “I just go with a clear mind. I never think about the scoreboard, what the target is, what’s a good score if we bowl first. I always think I should bowl in the right areas. As long as you bowl there you can trouble anyone. You got to play with the batsman’s mind. Keep mixing it up seeing what the batsman is trying to do.”
It is this uncluttered mindset that makes Rashid a captain’s delight. His pace through the air is such that batsmen don’t find it easy to step out to him and it is difficult to pick his googly from his leg-spinner. And he usually ends up bowling to the best batsmen in the opposition too. There are no easy overs.
SRH skipper Warner was just as amazed as the rest of the cricketing world by what Rashid does day in, day out.
“Look, what can you say,” said Warner when asked about Rashid’s spell. “It shows the amount of respect teams have for him. One, to not go after him and two, he just hits that mark all the time. We spoke about no step hits in our team meeting and he said to me that he won’t bowl more than ten in the tournament. And that is a lot of deliveries. For a ball that is getting a little bit of dew on it and stuff, he has an incredible knack of getting wickets and not getting hit for a lot of runs. What a talent he is.”
A look at Rashid’s IPL numbers (in the table below) shows that the batsmen have never truly managed to dominate him but even by comparison, IPL 2020 has been special. Given his talent, one always wonders how Rashid would have done in international cricket if he was part of one of the bigger teams that play regularly but perhaps the closest we will get to seeing that is when he plays in the T20 leagues around the world.
Rashid Khan in the Indian Premier League
SRH kept their chances of reaching the playoffs alive and it seems like they have finally started to get their team combination right. But no matter how things go, they’ll know they can always count on Rashid.
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