Wherever Rashid Khan goes, the team goes places. His presence means you can’t dismiss the Adelaide Strikers for Big Bash 8 glory.

Is Rashid Khan the world’s best T20 player?

When different teams that a particular player turns out for are successful time and time again, you begin to wonder which of the two is true: does the player have a habit of joining world-class teams knowing they’ll go on to win silverware? Or is it the player himself who lifts the team to the extent that success is almost inevitable?

For a period of three years, West Indies’ Andre Russell was the man with the golden touch. In 2016 he won his second T20 World Cup with the Windies, to go with a winner’s medal playing for the Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash in 2015/16, the IPL in 2014 with the Kolkata Knight Riders (he was also man of the series), the CPL title with the Jamaica Tallawahs (2013) and the Pakistan Super League with Islamabad United in 2016. When you have a player who can open the bowling and bowl at a decent lick, field like a panther going for a kill on the grasslands pretty much anywhere on the field and bat in any position between 3 and 8 with a strike rate of around 150… you can see how such a player may make a huge impact on a team’s fortunes.

 

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Why Rashid Khan is the new Andre Russell

But if Russell’s time as T20s most valuable player seems to have come and gone as age, injuries and time out from the game after a doping ban have taken their toll, then Rashid Khan’s time is now.

What odds would you have got a few years ago that the Number 1 ranked T20 bowler in the world (and number 2 in ODIs) would be from Afghanistan? Long ones. What odds that arguably the most valuable player in the shortest format was a leg-spinner? Same again. Ok, and what price that he’d reach that sort of status before he was 20? About the same as Donald Trump attending a feminists’ convention in support of their cause.

In a way Rashid Khan is like Russell in that he contributes in all three disciplines. But in terms of playing style, he’s far more Shahid Afridi, his great idol. Batting at 7 or 8, his power is remarkable and his fearlessness admirable; you sometimes wonder why he doesn’t bat higher. His fielding is sharp but it is of course his bowling that made him a million-dollar player for Hyderabad Sunrisers when he was retained by the franchise at the 2018 auction.

The leg spinner who doesn’t really spin it

Rather like Afridi and also Anil Kumble, Rashid Khan doesn’t actually turn it that much when those leg-spinners leave his hand. It’s the vicious fizz and speed through the air that get you out from a fast action relying on huge power coming from his right shoulder, in that sense much like Shane Warne. There’s no width on offer, no half-trackers. It’s 20-odd deliveries per T20 match of the ball honing into your pads and the stumps like a missile. One will turn a bit, another bounce a little more, another doesn’t do anything at all other than go straight. Bowled, LBW, stumped, caught behind or at slip… are all in the equation.

It’s almost getting to the stage where the outcome of Khan’s four overs are what settle a T20 match. If they go his way, you’ve lost 3 wickets for 12 and you’re a goner. On the rare occasions they don’t, you’ve got one over the opposition’s trump card and feel the game is yours to win.

 

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The T20 CV of Rashid Khan makes for good reading

In the 2018 edition of the IPL, Rashid Khan was the tournament’s second highest wicket-taker with 21 from 17 games. His miserly spells and constant wickets took Hyderabad to the final, where only a magnificent century from Shane Watson denied them. A few months later he pretty much single-handedly took Sussex to finals day in the T20 Blast. Main reason for Sussex not progressing from the semis? Khan wasn’t there, away on international duty.

In the inaugural Afghanistan Premier League he captained the Kabul Zwanan to a runners-up spot. Excellent though his figures were in the Final (1 wicket for just 21 runs), it wasn’t quite enough.

It was a similar story earlier in the year when he was turning out for the Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash.  This time round he was joint-wicket taker with 18 from 11 matches and though he missed the Final that time as well, on this occasion his side were able to win it without him anyway. He could feel pretty aggrieved about the fact that it was D’Arcy Short and not him who was voted Player of the Series.

 

Big Bash Odds: Khan makes Strikers automatic contenders

So four appearances in T20 franchise cricket in 2018 for Khan yielded a first, two seconds and a semi-final appearance. Making us go back to that initial question: is he a player joining great teams or is he a player making great teams? None of those four were favourites or even amongst the three favourites, so the answer must be the latter.

Kahn will be in BBL action again this year for the Strikers. There’s a little bit of a concern that both batsman Travis Head and giant fast bowler Billy Stanlake may miss crucial games on international duty. But then again, you could say that about any BBL team.

The Strikers are 5.5 second-favourites to defend their title with Betfair Sportsbook. Alternatively, you can back them on the Betfair Exchange at 6.4 and lay them off at a shorter price for a guaranteed profit. One thing is for sure: with Khan on board you’d certainly rather be with them than against them.

 

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