If someone would have said back in 2014 or 2015 that an Afghan cricketer would be picked in IPL roster, one would have laughed back at that person. But now, Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi are two of the most iconic cricketers in the tournament. They are the players who brought upon honor to Afghanistan by faring superbly in the multi-billion dollar showbiz tournament.
It was back in 2016, during the T20 World Cup when SRH started scouting for Rashid Khan. On the other hand, Md Nabi caught the eye with his game during the Bangladesh Premier League.
During the 2016 edition of the T20 mega world event, Rashid had picked 11 wickets in 7 matches spending as little as one could imagine. And that was the performance that earned him big bucks. And SRH was quick enough to realize the potential of Mohammad Nabi, who by that time became the icon of Afghan cricket. Rashid was also recently named the ICC Associate Cricketer of the Year.
The excitement among the cricket-mad public of Afghanistan was immense, as two of their players were picked at the Indian Premier League auction. But the players were at that point touring Zimbabwe. And it is difficult to imagine, whether or not they believed that they would be picked.
At that point, the eighteen-year-old leg-spinner, Rashid Khan was picked for Rs 4 cr. And his national teammate Nabi also became Rashid’s IPL teammate. For a mere Rs 30 lakhs. Nabi’s performance was better than that of Rashid. Nabi was the top wicket-taker at the 2016 World T20 Cup in India with 12 wickets. The two were brilliant at the Bangladesh Premier League held before the IPL auction that year. Nabi claimed 19 wickets in 13 games and Rashid claiming 13 wickets in eight games.
But with Nabi being more successful than Rashid, what was the reason behind the demand that was generated by the then 18-year-old? The pace at which he bowled was a lot different from what a normal leggie would bowl, and the way he could finish games and his fielding was top class. However, there was a definite dilemma for Sunrisers during the auction about whether they should pick the relatively unknown Rashid or go for veteran South African spinner Imran Tahir, who was also available?
But the courage shown by SRH on the auction table paid off with a hefty dividend as Rashid’s story became nothing short of a fairy tale. War-torn Afghanistan now is firmly pinned to the cricketing map as Nabi-Rashid duo, not the only ones to be picked by IPL teams. Later another leggie, Mujeeb Ur Rahman also was picked by KXIP.
The Afghans who were picked in the IPL also proved their worth as each one of them did not just fill the quota, but contributed and became stars in their departments. These Afghan players gave their nation’s cricketing credibility a boost, which helped them to gain test status as well.
In the first season itself, Rashid had picked 17 wickets for SRH in the 14 games that he played. Overall picking 55 wickets in 46 spendings a mere 6.55 per over in the hard-hitting tournament.
Md Nabi also proved that he is a dependable all-rounder with the limited opportunities he had. The stalwart of Afghan cricket scored 135 runs in 13 matches with a strike rate of 148.35. He also picked up 11 wickets at a cheap rate of 6.61 runs per over.
When Afghanistan player Mujeeb Ur Rahman dawned the Kings xi Punjab cap in 2018, he became the youngest player ever to play in the tournament. The right-arm off-spinner made his debut at 17 yr and 11 days. 2018 saw a successful run for Mujeeb giving Rashid for a run to prove that he is the better leggie from the Pathan nation playing in IPL. Mujeeb had picked up 14 wickets playing in 11 matches. Though the next tournament was not that fruitful for him as he took the field only in 5 matches picking just three wickets. But hopefully, with time, he will have the same cape of consistency like that of Rashid.
Zahir Khan Pakteen was also one of the teenagers who was picked in IPL. Though the Chinaman is yet to prove his worth, it was his quality that earned him the spot in the first place. To rise to the stage of the game, where they are being considered to play in the most prestigious T20 tournament in the world; despite hailing from a war-torn country, is remarkable. The fact that three of them achieved this while being a teenager makes it even more splendid for Afghanistan.
Rashid is so talented that he is being talked about as one of the best leg spinners in the world. And rightly so he was retained by the SRH for the 2018 season or a whopping Rs 9 Cr. The amount in IPL is not just proof of the grandeur of the tournament, but it also shows the worth of the player. And Afghanistan is definitely in the right path, at least the price tags say so. Mujeeb was also picked for an amount over Rs 4 Cr while he was just 17.
Though these Leggies are on the path to long years of international cricket, it was Mohammad Nabi who made franchises take a look at the talent in Afghanistan players for the first time. Nabi plays in almost all the top T20 leagues in the world imparting the knowledge of the cricketers in his country, working as a scout effectively. Today Afghanistan players are not only in demand but they are on the verge of being a top gun team from Asia shrugging shoulder with the Subcontinental teams. The journey of talented Afghanistan players to IPL and ICC World Cup is now being talked about as a fairy-tale story of world cricket.