Rashid Khan’s smart deception: Back-of-the-hand leg spin

A self-confessed Shahid Afridi fanboy, some of the latter’s quirks have influenced Rashid Khan, like the brisk run-up and snap release.

Some of the most destructive batsmen have made entries into Rashid Khan’s scalp-book, from Chris Gayle to AB de Villiers and MS Dhoni to Jos Buttler, making him one of the most vaunted leg-spin practitioners of this era. A self-confessed Shahid Afridi fanboy, some of the latter’s quirks have influenced him, like the brisk run-up and snap release. Both are disinclined to impart massive revs on the ball, or beat the batsman in flight or purchase prodigious side-spin as well.

But Khan’s craft is more nuanced, even versatile. The deadliest of his weapon is the skidding googly, which neither bounces nor turns as much as the regular googlies. Besides those factors, what makes his googlies difficult to read is the similarity of his release for googlies and leg-breaks. “Most leg-spinners have a back-of-the-hand release for googlies while the leg-breaks are more from the side or front. But Rashid releases both the same way,” Prasanna Agoram, an analyst who has worked with South Africa and other IPL teams, had written for The Indian Express. In that sense, he’s like left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav.

Moreover, his googlies are faster than his leg-breaks, which is an aberration, as googlies generally are slower because they are released from back of the hand. Compared to someone like Imran Tahir, he is 7-8 kmph quicker. “The secret of Rashid’s pacy googly is the way he whips the ball out of the thumb and index finger. With the shoulder providing the extra push, he almost snaps the ball out of his hand. The ball rushes through, and skids off the track, leaving the batsmen with very little time,” he explains.

His action concedes only minute signs—like he’s more upright for his leg-breaks and the heads slants away a little. He also goes slightly wide of the crease for leg-breaks. Crucially, his head doesn’t fall when he’s bowling a googly. So it leaves the batsman with the risky alternative of reading him off the surface, which can imperil even highly competent players of spin. The brisk pace, a flatter trajectory and accuracy also make him incredibly difficult to step out and stretch the shoulders.

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