Rashid Khan: Best T20 leg-spinner in the world?
The story of Afghanistan's rise to international cricket status is a heart-warming tale. In a country torn by civil strife and poverty, cricket has helped to fuel the dreams of a country and has enhanced the global reputation of their nation.
Several years ago, Afghanistan was a nondescript Associate nation, but fast forward to the present day and they have now received a full member status in all three formats. They have relied on a core group of players to take them to the top. Explosive keeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad comes to mind, along with wily all-rounder Mohammad Nabi.
However, the brightest star Afghanistan has produced thus far is leggie Rashid Khan. After impressing for Afghanistan in the T20 World Cup, Khan has played in T20 competitions all around the world and has been virtually unstoppable. In an age where leg spin is such a lethal force in limited overs cricket, is Rashid Khan the cream of the crop?
Khan's stellar credentials
Rashid Khan's main weapon in his armoury is an incredibly hard to pick googly. This is what made him successful in India, as he took the IPL by storm. He took 17 wickets in just 14 matches and had a superb economy of around 6.62. In a league full of big hits and huge totals, Khan firmly stood his ground and was a force to be reckoned with.
His stint in the Big Bash League was also sublime, perhaps even better than his performance in India. In his debut season for the Adelaide Strikers, Khan picked up 18 wickets in 11 matches on pitches that were much more suited to fast bowlers.
His economy rate of just 5.66 cannot be stressed enough - he remarkably went at less than a run a ball. It is hard to think of many bowlers capable of sustaining such consistency.
Amazingly, Khan is able to transfer his skills into all three formats and is equally incisive in ODI cricket as well. The Afghanistan star has picked up 96 wickets in 42 matches, with a devastatingly low economy of below four. One cannot underestimate the strength of these statistics. Despite his phenomenal record, internationally and in franchise cricket, Khan does face some fierce competition.
There are numerous leg-spinners around the world who could claim to be among the best of their profession. Indian leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal should certainly be considered when deliberating over this question.
The Royal Challengers Bangalore star showed his talent in the Nidahas Trophy where he was the joint highest wicket-taker. Prior to this, he impressed in South Africa where he took 16 wickets in the six ODIs, claiming a five-wicket haul in Centurion.
His IPL record is also very strong, having taken over 20 wickets in a season twice. Last year he was not as efficient in picking up wickets, but still managed to keep his economy at a very tidy 7.65. He was unlucky to have missed out on the purple cap on two occasions, in 2015 and 2016 but he will certainly be a contender for it this year.
Fellow Indian leg-spinner Kuldeep Yadav has also risen to prominence in limited overs cricket. Yadav even managed to pick up more wickets than Chahal in India's tour of South Africa, claiming the 17 victims.
However, Yadav's IPL record is not as good as Chahal's, going at over eight an over in the two seasons he has featured in. His international record is certainly as good, if not better, than Chahal's, but cannot boast the same level of success in the IPL
Looking overseas, Adam Zampa has been a very successful spin option. He had plenty of success in his first few appearances in the IPL, taking 6/19 in his first season back in 2016. A career IPL economy rate of 7.54 is much lower than Kuldeep's and is even lower than Chahal's. Yet, his recent form has been mediocre at best.
He really struggled in the ODI series against England and was targeted as a good opportunity to score runs quickly. Before that, though, his Big Bash League campaign with the Melbourne Stars was fairly strong.
Rashid Khan must surely be the best T20 legspinner in the world at the moment. His impressive statistics speak volumes for his talent. Despite coming under threat from other talented spinners Chahal, Yadav, and Zampa, none of them can boast a record that is anywhere near as good as Khan's. It will be interesting to see how he fairs in the upcoming IPL and he will no doubt be a force to be reckoned with.