IPL 2022: Rashid Khan has been a priceless buy by Gujarat Titans

The Afghan is perhaps the most coveted T20 player not just in the IPL, but leagues across the world

By Ayaz Memon

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Gujarat Titans' Rashid Khan. — BCCI
Gujarat Titans' Rashid Khan. — BCCI

Published: Wed 25 May 2022, 11:53 PM

It was one of those rare days when Rashid Khan failed to take a wicket. Nevertheless, he was as important as Hardik Pandya and David Miller in Gujarat Titans' fine victory over Rajasthan Royals in Tuesday night’s qualifier.

The contest was tight, as one would expect at this stage of the tournament, and with both teams boasting fantastic talent. David Miller, the sinewy South African who has put in many seasons in the IPL but remained an enigma, finished the match in rousing fashion with a hat-trick of sixes in the final over, to clinch a place in the final for the Titans.

Yet Miller’s pyrotechnics — which won him the Man of the Match award ­— and Pandya’s assured batting at the other end may not have been good enough for Titans to win without Rashid’s superb bowling effort when Rajasthan batted.

In four overs of magical leg-spin, Rashid conceded a mere 15 runs. This not only showcased his wondrous skills, but also stymied Rajasthan’s run-scoring momentum, making a decisive impact to the outcome of the match.

Rashid was introduced into the attack when Jos Buttler and Sanju Samson were together in the middle. It was a critical phase in the match. Samson was in his elements, hitting the ball all over the park, and while Buttler looked somewhat off colour, unable to adjust to the pace and bounce of the pitch, it was Rashid’s bowling which soon had Rajasthan at sixes and sevens.

He bamboozled Buttler with his scintillating repertoire of leg breaks, googlies and flippers. The England opener has three centuries in this tournament, and was considered the main batting threat to the Titans, but he was reduced to a nervous wreck by Rashid unravelling his bag of tricks.

Buttler was on tenterhooks against him, playing and missing repeatedly, unable to judge length and line, barely surviving. Rashid’s testing, parsimonious bowling in the middle overs helped Titans in two ways. It stopped Buttler and other batsmen from scoring runs freely, which in turn forced them to take high risks and lose wickets.

Samson’s dismissal was a case in point. Finding the run rate slipping, the Rajasthan captain tried to throw off the shackles and paid the price. Sai Kishore was the successful bowler, but the pressure was created by Rashid.

Towards the end of the innings, with Rashid having completed his quota of overs, Buttler cut loose as only he can, to take Rajasthan to a competitive 188. Had he not been bottled up by the diminutive Afghan legspinner, Rajasthan may well have got 12-15 runs more and this could could have put the game beyond Titans.

Just how effective Rashid was can also be gauged from how other spinners fared in the match. Sai Kishore went for 43 in four overs. He’s a rookie so some amount of profligacy is understandable. It is the fate of the seasoned, veteran spinners which is tell-tale of Rashid’s virtuosity on the day.

R Ashwin went for 40 runs in his four overs, Yuzvendra Chahal for 32. When Rashid bowled, it seemed the pitch was gripping and turning, making strokeplay difficult. Ashwin and Chahal, on the other hand, couldn’t pose such problems and Shubman Gill, followed by Pandya and Miller, thrived to take their team home.

Drafted into the new franchise after Sunrisers Hyderabad failed to retain him, Rashid has turned out to be the smartest move the Titans have made along with getting Hardik Pandya. Not just in bowling, but with the bat and in the field, his contributions have played a significant role in Titans flourishing.

While Rashid does not figure among the top five wicket-takers this season, most of his 18 wickets so far have been of important batsmen and come at crucial times. Add to this an economy rate of 6.73 and it becomes clear why Rashid Khan is perhaps the most coveted T20 player not just in the IPL, but leagues across the world.

Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator

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