Shrinivas Chandrashekaran, the Performance Analyst of IPL side Sunrisers Hyderabad, revealed how the franchise tracked and eventually opted to go for Afghanistan duo Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi.
SRH had begun the process of scouting Rashid as far back as the 2016 World T20. Nabi, on the other hand, caught the eye during the Bangladesh Premier League.
"It was during the World T20 in 2016 that we first watched Rashid Khan closely. You could see that there was something different about him. He had a good game against England in Delhi. There were [good] performances during that World T20 and we kept following him," Chandrashekaran said during the chat show Homerun with AV with sports commentator Arun Venugopal on his YouTube channel Gethist Creative.
"Whatever games he was playing, he would run through oppositions. So the curiosity about him increased. The pace at which he bowled was a lot different to what a normal leggie would bowl, and the way he could finish games and his fielding was top class.
"There was a complete package there, but then you were always thinking whether the exposure side of things would be a concern.
"There might be questions coming up about the level he was playing at – obviously he had played international cricket but then the quality of batsmanship [against which he was faced would obviously be brought up]. But then, we were very certain – even if he plays the opposition ten times and they are still not able to pick him day in and day out, then there is something there."
Chandrashekaran worked with Nabi during the BPL as they were both part of the Chittagong Vikings and also spoke of how Rashid, who was representing the Cumilla Warriors, made a difference to the side when he started playing.
"Rashid was part of the Bangladesh Premier League as well. Mohammad Nabi was part of Chittagong Vikings like I was and Rashid was playing for Comilla, which was led by Mashrafe Mortaza. Rashid didn’t play the first seven games as they went with Imad Wasim.
"However, they had lost all the seven games. Once their seventh game was over, I had a discussion with their coach. That’s when I suggested that they could play Rashid and see if he could make a difference.
"I also wanted to see [what Rashid could do], and the coach gave me an opportunity as well to make my case. Before that, Tom Moody was also doing commentary at PSL during the first season, so he had watched Mohammad Nabi very closely.
"So, he got a fair idea of what Mohammad Nabi could give as a finisher with the bat and his four overs with the ball, and his experience overall. So, there was constant discussion only about these two players.
"With Nabi in my team, I could ask about Rashid – how he fit into the Afghanistan side, what he did during practice sessions, and all those things. I also used to watch Rashid bowl in the adjacent nets, so it gave me a clear picture."
However, there remained a dilemma for Sunrisers - should they pick the relatively unknown Rashid or go for veteran South African spinner Imran Tahir, who was also available?
"I took it forward to the [Sunrisers Hyderabad] franchise and they were also very keen. But we had to make a decision between going for Imran Tahir or Rashid Khan because Tahir was also in the auction and he was the number one T20 bowler then.
"Experience vs a young rookie – that was a call we had to take. But then we thought that in 2016 we had picked up Mustafizur Rahman and he turned out to be a sensation, so it kind of allowed us to give it a go with someone like Rashid, who is different.
"So we went ahead with those players and it worked wonders for us. Both have been an integral part of the franchise and have provided match-winning performances for us."