Why Rashid is one of the toughest bowlers to hit in T20

Rashid Khan returned his best ever figures — while bowling a whopping 17 dot balls in his four overs — against Delhi Capitals (DC) in an Indian Premier League (IPL) match on Tuesday to not only spin SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) to a crucial win, but to also underline his importance as one of the best spinners in T20 cricket.

Leg-spinner Rashid, 22, finished with enviable figures of 4-0-7-3 as DC were dismissed for 131 in 19 overs while chasing SRH’s 219 for two wickets in 20 overs. His Tuesday’s exploits have taken his 2020 IPL wickets tally to 17 in 12 matches, and the Afghan is now placed third, behind DC speedster Kagiso Rabada (23 from 12) and Kings XI Punjab pacer Mohammed Shami (20 from 12).

Rashid boasted an economy of 1.80 at the end of the match, reflecting on his reputation as one of the most difficult bowlers to score runs off in T20 cricket. Interestingly, he boasts an economy of 5.00 in 12 matches — the lowest for any bowler in the top five highest wicket takers this season by a fair distance. The second lowest economy among bowlers in that list is the 6.71 of Rajasthan Royals fast bowler Jofra Archer.

The stats have not come by accident. Rashid said after the match that not giving away runs was top of the list for him when he was bowling.

“What I’m mainly focusing on is to bowl economically, whether I get wickets or not. Dot balls help me to get wickets and it also helps the other end to get wickets,” said Rashid.

“I just go with a clear mind. I never think about the scoreboard — what the target is, what’s a good score if we bowl first. I always think I should bowl in the right areas. As long as you bowl there, you can trouble anyone. You got to play with the batsman’s mind. Keep mixing it up seeing what the batsman is trying to do,” he explained.

Rashid was brought in for the first over after the powerplay and delivered with the wicket of Shimron Hetmyer off the very first ball. He then dismissed Ajinkya Rahane in the second last ball of the over which ended with one run and two wickets at the Dubai International Stadium.

The next over may not have produced any wickets but Rashid bowled seven dot balls before dismissing Axar Patel in his last over. He bowled a total of 17 dot balls in his spell, the joint most in an innings for any bowler with Mumbai Indians’ Trent Boult and Chennai Super Kings’ Deepak Chahar.

“Well, what can you say,” said SRH captain David Warner after the match when asked about Rashid in the presentation ceremony. “It shows the amount of respect that people have for him for them to not go after him. He just hits that mark all the time. Despite the dew on it, he has this incredible knack of taking wickets and not going for any runs. What a talent he is.”

Rashid’s tendency to not concede runs is one of the factors that have made him one of the most sought after T20 bowlers in the world and helped him stay on top of ICC’s T20I rankings for bowlers since 2018.

Since making his IPL debut in the 2017 season, Rashid has stayed in the top five of the highest number of dot balls every season, finishing on top of the standings in 2018. He currently sits second on that list for this season with 135 balls, behind Archer who is on 147.

And, who knows, if SRH qualify for the playoffs, Rashid might displace Archer – or whoever occupies that place – with a few more spells like the one he bowled on Tuesday.