The lowdown on Rashid Khan
Rashid Khan made history by becoming the first Afghanistan player to be picked for an IPL game. But who is he, and what has he done?
Who is Rashid Khan?
Afghanistan's legspinning Messiah, with a googly so good it's like manna from heaven. $600,000 worth of awesome is also an acceptable answer.
Why is his selection in the opening game of IPL 2017 significant?
With his selection in the Sunrisers Hyderabad XI, Rashid became the second player from an Associate country to play in the IPL while still ostensibly active for his national team. One could make a case that Rashid is truly the first, and at the very least the first organically home-grown Associate player, to make a debut in the IPL.
Dirk Nannes took the new ball for Netherlands in their famous win over England at Lord's in the 2009 World T20, two weeks after wrapping up his first season with Delhi Daredevils. Nannes' Dutch career was short lived after he was picked to play for his native Australia later that same summer.
South African T20 nomad Ryan ten Doeschate also had a lengthy list of appearances with Netherlands, but made his debut for Kolkata Knight Riders in 2011 three weeks after he signed off on his Dutch career with a century against Ireland in the 2011 World Cup.
What are his strengths?
Only 18 years old, Rashid's biggest asset is not a physical skill but his ability to come through in pressure situations. Sunrisers coach Tom Moody identified that as a key reason for bidding INR 4 crore for Rashid
at the auction. At any Afghanistan match, the mood changes when Rashid takes the ball, his charisma imbuing confidence in fans and team-mates regardless of how solid or perilous a position his side is in.
As for his physical skills, Rashid has immaculate control for a legspinner, leading to a spectacular economy rate. He builds pressure not just through dot balls but through his rapid approach to the crease and quickness through the air, bowling at a pace akin to his idol Shahid Afridi. He turns his googly more than his legbreak, and his ability to disguise it so well causes fits for left-handers in particular.
What has he been up to recently?
On the same day he was taken in the CPL draft by Guyana Amazon Warriors, Rashid produced a record haul of 5 for 3 in two overs
against Ireland to keep Afghanistan's world-record streak of consecutive T20I wins - 11 - alive.
In the second ODI against Ireland, Rashid showed Paul Stirling that "anything you can do I can do better", besting Stirling's 6 for 55 in the first innings by taking 6 for 43
in the second. Rashid finished as the leading wicket-taker in both the T20I and ODI series, and then took a five-for in the first innings - eight wickets for the match - in Afghanistan's Intercontinental Cup win over Ireland. To say he enters the IPL in good form is putting it mildly.
What are the highlights of his career?
Rashid can hang his hat on those twin record-setting T20 and ODI hauls last month against Ireland. He was Afghanistan's leading wicket-taker on the way to winning the Desert T20 Challenge in January, helped Afghanistan U-19 beat New Zealand and Zimbabwe on the way to the Plate Championship at the 2016 U-19 World Cup. He's also been a regular thorn in the side of Zimbabwe's senior team over the last 18 months since making his senior debut as a 17-year-old in October 2015.
Most of all, Rashid has made Afghanistan believe there is a path to success with or without Hamid Hassan, Afghanistan's original - but oft-injured - bowling talisman. Success for Rashid in the IPL will give added credibility to the deeds of others at Associate level and could perhaps open the door to IPL contracts for Associate players both within and beyond Afghanistan.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna