MUMBAI (Reuters) – Afghan spin sensation Rashid Khan saw cricket fans in India pleading for him to be awarded citizenship after the 19-year-old single-handedly carried Sunrisers Hyderabad into Sunday’s Indian Premier League final.
Rashid smashed an unbeaten 34 off 10 balls to lift Hyderabad’s innings to 174 for seven before leaving the Kolkata Knight Riders spellbound with his fast leg-spinners, claiming three for 19 in his four overs.
If that was not enough, Rashid was also involved in a run out and then took two catches while fielding close to the boundary rope in the last over as his team won by 14 runs and advanced to the final against Chennai Super Kings at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium.
His performance left many impressed fans in the cricket-mad nation demanding on social media that he was awarded Indian citizenship, though the comments got a swift response from Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani.
“Afghans take absolute pride in our hero, Rashid Khan,” he said on Twitter tagging Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “I am also thankful to our Indian friends for giving our players a platform to show their skills.
“Rashid reminds us whats best about Afg. He remains an asset to the cricketing world. No we are not giving him away
<p>Hyderabad paid 40 million rupees ($590,580) at last year's auction to land the leg-spinner from Afghanistan, where cricket is highly popular but sporting facilities are pitifully inadequate after decades of war.</p>
<p>An intense bidding war erupted for his services in the auction this year before Hyderabad exercised their right-to-match option for a staggering 90 million rupees ($1.33 million).</p>
<p>He has made rapid strides since making his international debut in October 2015 as a 17-year-old, in February becoming the youngest to top the International Cricket Council's rankings for bowlers in the Twenty20 and 50-overs format.</p>
<p>Hyderabad coach Tom Moody had predicted the leg-spinner to have a major impact on this year's IPL.</p>
<p>He has taken 21 wickets with an economy rate of less than seven and earned a glowing tribute from former India batting great Sachin Tendulkar on Friday.</p>
<p>"Always felt rashidkhan_19 was a good spinner but now I wouldn’t hesitate in saying he is the best spinner in the world in this format,” Tendulkar said on Twitter.
“Mind you, he’s got some batting skills as well. Great guy.”
($1 = 67.7300 Indian rupees)
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Greg Stutchbury)