Afghanistan leggie Rashid Khan who has arguably become the best T20 bowler in the world faced rejection twice, before finally being roped in by Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2017. Former Afghanistan Coach Lalchand Rajput has disclosed this now.
Rajput is currently serving as the Coach of the Zimbabwe team and his best known for his stint in the team management when India won the 2007 T20 World Cup. This incident dates back to the time when Rajput was Afghanistan’s Coach and the side was taking baby steps in the international circuit.
“When I began coaching the Afghanistan team, I was introduced to this impressive under-19 spinner Rashid Khan. He was naturally talented. His arm speed was very fast and his bowling style was different,” he said in a recent interview to India Today.
After spending some time in the Afghanistan camp, Rajput soon realized Rashid’s potential and thought that the young leggie deserves a chance in the IPL. He first called Virender Sehwag who was in charge of the KXIP team.
“After six to seven months, when I thought he was good enough to play the IPL, I called up a few people. I called up Virender Sehwag and told him there was a talented leg-spinner and since Kings XI Punjab did not have too many spin options, Rashid could be a good choice for them. Sehwag said KXIP had have Axar Patel… ‘We don’t need spinners, we need all-rounders,” Rajput mentioned.
He then contacted KKR who too denied the proposition on the grounds that they already had Sunil Narine, Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav in their ranks. “I also called up Gautam Gambhir (then captain of Kolkata Knight Riders). I knew they had issues with Sunil Narine at the time with uncertainty around his action. He refused and said ‘We have Narine and Kuldeep Yadav’,” Rajput continued.
With the last throw of the dice, Rajput now called up the classic Hyderabad player VVS Laxman and the SRH mentor with high hopes. Laxman took interest in the matter and ultimately bagged Rashid in the 2017 IPL auctions. “I told him if he did not want to pick him straightaway, he should at least just keep a watch on Rashid. I told him that I had seen him bowl. My argument was he was quickish and could be a force (to reckon with) in India in April and May.”
“Laxman kept following him in our I Cup and other T20 matches and ultimately picked him. He took a chance and the rest is history. Today we regard Rashid as the best spinner in the T20 format,” Rajput signed off.
Most valuable player
In no time – just about 2 years – Rashid has surely proved his worth in the IPL. SRH used their RTM on Rashid for 9 crores against KXIP this year and the leggie has not disappointed.
The Afghan also showed glimpses of his batting in the Qualifier against KKR which can be further used in the coming seasons. He has gradually become the most valued IPL bowler, if not the most valued cricketer.