New Delhi: Eden Gardens on Friday night was all about the heroics of one man who almost single-handedly snatched the IPL eliminator from the home team. Such was the impact of Afghan cricketer Rashid Khan on the match that his country's president hailed him as a hero and - on a lighter note - refused to ever give him away.
Kolkata had dominated the match against Hyderabad for most parts of Saturday. But just when it looked like Hyderabad won't be able to post a formidable total, Rashid Khan walked in and bludgeoned his way to a 10-ball 34 that had four incredible sixes. In reply to Hyderabad's 174/7, Kolkata were cruising at 93/2 in 10 overs but in walked the spinner and once again walked away with three wickets to leave the team reeling. Any chances of a late resurgence from the hosts was snuffed out when Rashid took two back-to-back catches in the final over to see his team through to the finals.
It was an all-round effort that earned the 19-year-old from Jalalabad massive adulation but praise from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was extra special. "Afghans take absolute pride in our hero, Rashid Khan. 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. @narendramodi," he tweeted.
Afghans take absolute pride in our hero, Rashid Khan. 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. @narendramodi
— Ashraf Ghani (@ashrafghani) May 25, 2018
On his part, Rashid Khan dedicated his man-of-the-match award to victims of a blast in his home town. "I want to dedicate this award to those who lost their lives in a blast during a cricket game in my hometown back home," he said.
Thanks to his consistent efforts, Hyderabad - having topped the league stage - will now face off against Chennai on Sunday for the title.