A skilful leg-spinner in action not only makes for a great sight, in the Indian Premier League the tribe is mighty effective too. Piyush Chawla provided an example when he applied the brakes on Mumbai Indians’ opening onslaught by removing Rohit Sharma in Saturday’s IPL 13 opener, returning an impressive 1/21 in four overs.
If Royal Challengers Bangalore team up Adam Zampa with Yuzvendra Chahal in their tournament opener against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Monday, we may have the world’s top three leg-spinners in action. Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan is the leading spin force for Hyderabad while Zampa and Chahal are the top leg-break bowlers of Australia and India respectively.
Chahal has been RCB’s main spin weapon over the years and Zampa has done well for his IPL teams, starting with a six-wicket haul for Rising Pune Supergiants in 2016. Still, it is Rashid who has captured the imagination of fans with exploits in T20 leagues world over.
Chahal and Zampa are in the classical mould, working on batsmen with flight, drift and pace variation. Like most Afghanistan spinners, Rashid bowls flatter and faster. It’s the sheer variety he has that makes him compelling to watch. During the Caribbean Premier League last month, he became the youngest (21 years, 335 days) and fastest (213 matches) to scalp 300 wickets in T20 cricket.
The T20 format is a lot about dot balls and Rashid has the best economy rate in IPL—6.55 with 55 wickets in 46 matches at a superb strike rate of 19.85.
In Monday’s game, the highlight will be his battle with RCB captain Virat Kohli. IPL’s top run-scorer has had issues against leg-spinners and the world’s top batsman will be playing after several months due to the pandemic. Rashid and other SRH bowlers promise to test Kohli.
“As a bowler I will try my best to bowl my best deliveries to him. It doesn’t matter what the result is as long as I am giving my best. Bowling in the right areas is what matters to me, so I’m looking forward to the match. He (Kohli) will be back after a long break so let’s see what’s his reaction, how he goes,” said Rashid, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Sunday, during a media interaction.
“I love it when somebody like him (Kohli) is batting against me. As a bowler you always want the best competition, so I would rather take the pressure; I will enjoy bowling to him.”
Rashid doesn’t depend on big leg-breaks. Still, he has added such variety to his bowling that he can adjust to any surface or condition. The Afghanistan ace said he bowls off different grips and uses them depending on how the pitch plays.
“I bowl leg-spin with four or five (different) grips. I bowl them according to the wicket… every grip gives me a different reaction after pitching, that’s how I bowl my four overs and keep mixing it up.”
It’s not just the variations. Afghanistan spinners, who are mostly self-coached, rely on strong hands and shoulders to impart spin and speed. “I generate my pace using fingers and shoulders a lot. I bowl with the top of the fingers, that’s how I generate the pace. The quick arm action I have helps me to add speed as well.”
Add his accuracy and taking chances against Rashid’s bowling is not easy. Teams base their strategy on playing him out and targetting other bowlers. It suits him. “I never think I have to take so many wickets, I’m always focusing on bowling economically and that helps the others to take wickets. That’s what matters.”