Rashid Khan

Rashid Khan is on the cusp of joining some rare company in the Indian Premier League, with the leg-spinner just one wicket away from becoming only the 17th player in IPL history to pick up a century of wickets. If Khan accomplishes this incredible feat in Gujarat’s next game against KKR on April 23, it would make him the fastest spinner and third quickest bowler in the IPL to do so, trailing only the great Lasith Malinga and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Khan has revolutionized the Indian Premier League since he arrived in Sunrisers Hyderabad colours in 2017, with the Afghan leg-spinner regularly giving batters nightmares with his wizardry and ushering in a new generation of quick wrist-spinners – such as Ravi Bishnoi and Rahul Chahar.

When it comes to Rashid Khan in the IPL, the numbers speak for themselves. Only Jasprit Bumrah has picked up more wickets than Khan in the tournament since his debut – 108 to 99 – while no one is even in the same stratosphere in terms of containing runs.

Amongst those who have bowled at least 1000 deliveries in the competition since 2017, Khan is the only bowler in the IPL with an economy rate of below 7 (6.34). In fact, no other bowler comes close to touching him, with Jasprit Bumrah in second place at 7.07 runs conceded per over in the same period.

Rashid Khan’s IPL record by phase

1 to 628721.818.750
7 to 111345.8924.725.142.2
12 to 161306.4718.31740.8
17 to 20307.2318.11547.2

What is even more impressive about Rashid Khan is that these numbers stay roughly the same throughout all phases of the innings. Although he is most potent during the middle phase when the field spreads out and the spinners usually operate, Khan’s record as both a powerplay and death bowler stands out compared to his contemporaries.

While the leg-spinner has only bowled 30 overs in the slog overs (17-20) in the IPL since 2017, Khan has by far and away the best economy rate (7.23) at this stage of this innings amongst every bowler in the competition. The next best on the list is Anrich Nortje, with an economy of 7.82 in 28 overs bowled, while the electric Jasprit Bumrah comes in third at 8.15 – albeit in a much larger sample size of close to 120 overs.

Rashid Khan’s IPL record vs different batter types

VS player typeOversEconomyAvgSRDot %

Khan’s numbers also largely stay the same against both right-handers and left-handers. Unlike a leg-spinner such as Yuzvendra Chahal, who is more leg-break dominant, Khan is equally effective against both batter types due to his wide assortment of variations. His economy is virtually identical to both right and left-handers, while his wicket-taking record against southpaws is marginally superior – presumably due to his higher usage of googlies.

Despite being in the international circuit for over five years now, batters have still failed to unravel the Rashid Khan mystery, and he continues to remain incredibly effective across all conditions. The reasons for that are two-fold. Firstly, his arm action is so quick that batters hardly have any time to react to what delivery is coming at them and pick up any cues to play the correct shot.

The second is that Khan’s grip for his leg break and the googly are virtually indistinguishable. As opposed to most leg-break bowlers, both Khan’s googly and leg-break come from the back of the hand, making it almost impossible for most batters to separate the two in real-time.

Add that to his high release point and freakish control of line and length, and Khan is as close as it comes to lab-created perfection in T20 cricket.

In addition to all these technical aspects of his bowling, there are also the intangibles at play when it comes to facing Rashid Khan. Like fellow modern greats – Jasprit Bumrah, Sunil Narine or Jofra Archer – Rashid Khan’s four overs are a minefield for opposition batters to get through in a T20 game, and at times it is his aura that generates wickets rather than the bowling itself.

To relate it to other sports, Khan is cricket’s equivalent of Steph Curry or Lionel Messi. Opponents devote so much attention and resources to dealing with the player that it makes those around him even better. Because Khan’s four overs in a T20 game are essentially a 24-run bank, opposition teams have to take more risks than they would like in the other 16, creating more opportunities for the bowlers around Rashid to pick up wickets.

This Rashid Khan gravity was on show during the Rajasthan Royal run-chase on Thursday night at the DY Patil Stadium. Chasing 193, Gujarat skittled the Royals for 155 for nine in 20 overs. On the scoreboard, Rashid Khan contributed zero wickets to the Titans’ cause, but as expected, the leg-spinner conceded just his usual 24 runs on the night. The pressure he built up at one end allowed his teammates to reap the rewards from the other, with Yash Dayal and Lockie Ferguson picking up three each.

The ripple effects he creates with his bowling are felt all across the 20 overs of the innings. There are very few players in the history of the game that demand such careful planning and consideration from the opposition, and as world cricket moves towards a franchise model with various leagues popping up around the globe, no cricketer is more wanted or valuable than Rashid Khan.

The leg-spinner will forever be remembered as one of the pioneers of the T20 game, a bowler who pushed the envelope a little further and re-wrote the rules of engagement. 

And the scary part? 

At age 23, he is just getting started.

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