IPL 2020: Unsung hero Nabi ready to inspire Sunrisers
It is that all-round talent the Sunrisers Hyderabad would hope to unleash on their opponents in the world's greatest T20 league
For a team that have marquee names like David Warner, Jonny Bairstow, Kane Williamson and Rashid Khan, Sunrisers Hyderabad could turn to an unassuming Afghan off-break bowler named Mohammad Nabi in their attempt to leave opponents in a spin when the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) kicks off in these shores on September 19.
Nabi, the tall 35-year-old bowler whose ability to hit the ball hard in the lower middle order has made him a vital cog in the Afghanistan team, rarely receives the applause his younger countryman Rashid Khan so regularly enjoys on the biggest of stages.
But Nabi remains an inspiring figure in Afghanistan cricket - one who could turn the fortunes of his team with one inspired spell or a compelling counter-attack with the bat.
And it is that all-round talent the Sunrisers Hyderabad would hope to unleash on their opponents in the world's greatest T20 league.
Having played in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), Nabi arrived in Dubai with his Sunrisers teammate Rashid.
While Rashid had a decent tournament in the CPL for his team Barbados Tridents, it was Nabi's all-round brilliance (156 runs and 12 wickets) that sent St Lucia Zouks to the final where they lost to Trinbago Knight Riders by eight wickets.
Now the David Warner-led Sunrisers would want Nabi to replicate the CPL form in the IPL.
"I am really excited to be back at the Sunrisers Hyderabad. Really happy to be back after a long time. Hope to meet everyone soon in the team," Nabi said in a video posted by the Sunrisers Hyderabad in their official Twitter handle.
But Nabi could only begin his training session with the Sunrisers after completing the six-day quarantine.
"You know we have come from the CPL. It was a tough tournament. We had back-to-back games. Now we will sleep for three days and after that we will start bit of training and activate my body again to be ready for the upcoming games," he said.
"In the CPL, there was no crowd. We didn't really enjoy it without crowd, the games I mean. Let's see how we can enjoy here in the IPL."
Even without the crowds, Nabi, who claimed eight wickets for the Sunrisers last year, could make a big impact in the IPL, according to former India opener Gautam Gambhir.
"He is the most underrated player in T20 cricket. You talk about Kieron Pollard, AB de Villiers, Rashid Khan, or David Warner but if you see his contribution, he is a brilliant fielder, gives you four overs with the ball, bowls in the first 6 overs, bats at No.5 or No.6, and can play the big shots," said Gambhir during the Cricket Connected show in Star Sports.
Gambhir, who won two IPL titles as the Kolkata Knight Riders captain in 2012 and 2014, said Nabi would have become a superstar like the West Indies T20 specialist Andre Russell if he wasn't from Afghanistan.
"We talk about Andre Russell as a quality all-rounder but Mohammad Nabi probably may not be in that category but he is not that far behind. Because he comes from Afghanistan, who do not play that much cricket, so people do not rate him that much," Gambhir said.
At 35, it looks unlikely that Nabi, who started his cricketing journey at the age of 10 during his life as an Afghan refugee in Peshawar, Pakistan, would ever get a chance to become a global star.
But a fine display in the UAE could see him gallop into IPL history.
After all, unsung heroes like Nabi scripted the greatest underdog victory in the IPL when the Shane Warne-led Rajasthan Royals won the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2008.
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