Rahmanullah Gurbaz made a swift start to his TATA Indian Premier League (IPL) career even though Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) ended up on the losing side in their season opener against Punjab Kings at Mohali’s IS Bindra Stadium on April 1, Saturday.
Chasing a target of 192 set by PBKS, KKR suffered an early slump, losing their first two wickets (Mandeep Singh and Anukul Roy) within the first two overs. However, Gurbaz, during his brief stay at the crease, did provide some impetus to KKR’s chase.
The Afghanistan wicketkeeper-batter smacked the TATA IPL’s most expensive player Sam Curran for a huge six over long-on, off only the second ball he faced. He then flicked Curran for a boundary over deep midwicket off the very next delivery before presenting the full face of the bat to hit another boundary over mid-off, this time off the first delivery of Curran’s second over.
Gurbaz managed to strike another boundary off Arshdeep Singh off the penultimate ball of the fourth over, before perishing to Australia’s Nathan Ellis in the fifth over for an impactful 16-ball 22. His 101-meter long six earned him the Visit Saudi Beyond the Boundaries Longest 6 award. Although KKR lost the rain-affected contest by 7 runs via DLS method, Gurbaz’s free flowing batting approach impressed many.
The 21-year-old, who was traded by KKR from defending champions Gujarat Titans ahead of last year’s mini auction, came to the Indian shores on the back of an impressive performance in Afghanistan’s recent T20I series win against Pakistan in the UAE.
He not only was the catalyst in Afghanistan’s 7-wicket win in the second T20I with a composed 49-ball 44 and two dismissals, the youngster became the sixth Afghanistan batter to cross the 1,000-run milestone in T20Is in the third T20I and his 40th T20I appearance.
Gurbaz also created a unique record in his maiden KKR outing by becoming the first Afghan cricketer to keep wickets in the TATA IPL.
The explosive opener, who became the fifth Afghan national to feature in the TATA IPL after Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and FazalhaqFarooqi, recoded decent numbers in the latest editions of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) and the International League T20 (ILT20).
While Gurbaz amassed 176 runs from 8 innings at a strike-rate of 149.15 in the former tournament, he struck 168 runs in 9 innings at a strike-rate of 135.48 in the inaugural ILT20 earlier this year.
“Everyone dreams of playing in a big competition like the IPL. I have always dreamt of playing for KKR. It’s a dream come true for me. Now this is the time for me to show my skills and ability. I want to do something special for KKR.
“Afghanistan loves cricket and everybody back home loves KKR. I request all the KKR fans from Afghanistan to keep sending in the good wishes for the entire KKR family. Your warmth and positivity will keep the players motivated. Korbo, Lorbo, Jeetbo!” Gurbaz recently told kkr.in.
Needless to say, the talented wicketkeeper will have a major role to play in KKR’s quest for a third TATA IPL title.