Anil Kumble Rashid Khan Mujeeb Zadran Ur Rahman Shane Warne Sachin Tendulkar India Afghanistan 2018
Anil Kumble (left) and Rashid Khan © Getty Images (representational photo)

Shane Warne had said that Rashid Khan got him ‘excited’. ”I wouldn’t hesitate in saying he is the best spinner in the world in this format… (and) he’s got some batting skills as well,” Sachin Tendulkar had said on Twitter. Now Anil Kumble, too, is full of praise for the 19-year-old Rashid and his 17-year-old teammate Mujeeb Ur Rahman (sometimes referred to as Mujeeb Zadran).

“It’s fantastic to see two young Afghanistan spinners bamboozle world batsmen,” Kumble told AFP. “Both Rashid and Mujeeb are extremely talented and if they get it right they are certainly capable of testing… Indian or any batsmen.”

Rashid and Mujeeb have become potent weapons for Afghanistan, with Mohammad Nabi adding edge to a spin-heavy squad picked for Afghanistan’s historic Test against India this week. Last week, they completed an impressive 3-0 T20I whitewash over Bangladesh.

However, Kumble added that switching from T20s to the five-day format may be a challenge for the teenagers: “It will be interesting to see how they go, because bowling four overs and bowling to get wickets in a Test match is totally different.”

Rashid, also an agile fielder and a useful lower-order batsman, said that fitness has always been key since he made his ODI debut: “In the last one year, I have tried to stay fit, and improve upon my fitness, which has changed everything. I have managed to contribute in the field, with ball and bat.”

Rashid had started playing with a tennis ball in the remote and poor eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar as one of 12 children, and says he learned the tricks of the trade by himself. He idolised both Warne and Kumble.

He began his professional career in Afghanistan’s domestic league where he caught the eye of national selectors. At 17, he made his international debut against Zimbabwe. Since then he has gone from strength to strength, becoming the fastest to reach 100 ODI wickets during the World Cup qualifiers in March with his darting leg-spinners and vicious googlies.

This year he was the star of the IPL, helping Sunrisers Hyderabad reach the final and more than justifying his $1.41-million price tag. Khan’s well-disguised ‘doosra’ did for stars from Virat Kohli to MS Dhoni, helping to propel the youngster to the top of the ICC’s T20 bowling rankings.