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regular-article-logo Saturday, 18 May 2024

IPL 2023: Noor Ahmad, an Afghan gem cut out for spin glory  

Coming from a modest family background, the spinner's career started taking shape in 2019

Sayak Banerjee Calcutta Published 29.04.23, 06:28 AM
Gujarat Titans’ Noor Ahmad at the Eden on Friday.

Gujarat Titans’ Noor Ahmad at the Eden on Friday. Sanat Kumar Sinha

The IPL played a big role in showering fame and stardom on Afghan leg-spinner Rashid Khan. Will it be a similar story for his protege Noor Ahmad?

It may be a little too early to pass a verdict, but the 18-year-old left-arm wrist-spinner from Lakan in the Khost province of Afghanistan has already caught the eye of many.

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In only three appearances so far for Gujarat Titans, Noor already has six wickets in his kitty, which certainly is an impressive showing for a teenager making his IPL debut. That too, from a country where the cricketing infrastructure is yet to be on par with those of the top-tier nations.

The chinaman — equivalent of a right-arm spinner’s googly or wrong ’un — appears to be his strength and he makes sure to bowl that at a good pace, which has been instrumental in earning him success so far in this IPL. Noor’s victims include world’s top-ranked T20I batsman Suryakumar Yadav, talented Australia seamer all-rounder Cameron Green and West Indies’ power-hitter Nicholas Pooran.

Coming from a modest family background, Noor’s career in cricket started taking shape in 2019. It was the Shpageeza (T20) Cricket League, where the then 14-year-old was playing for former Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi’s team. During that tournament, Alistair Campbell, a former Zimbabwe captain, had sent footage of Noor’s bowling to Gary Kirsten, who showed a good bit of interest in the teenager.

He went unsold in the IPL auction thereafter, but became the youngest player to sign at the Big Bash League when he joined Melbourne Renegades in the 2020-21 season. Noor didn’t play too many games in the Big Bash, but he did manage to find his way in the Titans group as their net bowler last year. Titans’ mentor Kirsten, along with Rashid, were quite keen on having this eager learner in their set-up.

“I first saw Noor in an U-19 trial game. A quiet guy who was a bit of an introvert to speak before the other players and coaches. But he impressed me with his very first ball and then bowled the chinaman with good pace and control. I knew he was unique and different from the other spinners,” Afghanistan assistant coach Raees Ahmadzai told The Telegraph from Khost on Friday.

“Credit also goes to Rashid for his support to Noor. I had requested Rashid to be present at those U-19 trials and he did come to our centre in Kabul. He was quite impressed with Noor’s speed and acknowledged his quick chinaman. The kid then fared well in the U-19 Asia Cup (in 2019) followed by the U-19 World Cup in 2020,” Ahmadzai stated.

If he continues this good work, it can earn him a place in the Afghanistan squad for the ODI World Cup later this year. But before that, he also needs a few more skills.

“He shouldn’t bowl too short or give width. Also, he needs to improve on the delivery that comes into the right-hander and turns away from the left-hander. It will take time because of his high-arm action, but he’s a fast learner,” Ahmadzai said.

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