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Rashid Khan found out? Not a chance

Rashid Khan celebrates Robin Uthappa's wicket BCCI

It was the middle of April when, suddenly, Rashid Khan was walking towards the Sorting Hat muttering: "not Found Out, please. Not Found Out." An inexplicable event had happened which meant, obviously, that the internet was trying to explain it. In Rashid's case, going for 55 and 49 runs in two consecutive games meant, from the viewpoint of some, that he was hovering without control and would soon learn that he had, in fact, been "found out." Few things can be worse for a spinner these days. Being "found out" is difficult in the way that adopting a cat is difficult: your best will no longer be good enough.

None of it was close to the truth, of course. Rashid could be smashed in the final or return wicket-less figures in Afghanistan's maiden Test next month, and he'd still be among the best bowlers in the world. He was already ranked the No. 1 bowler in both ODIs and T20Is before the season began and, despite the glitch in the timeline that those two expensive spells were, has ended up Sunrisers Hyderabad's joint-highest wicket-taker and most economical bowler of the season.

He doesn't average more than 16 in any format, at any level. Sure, the international games were mostly against low-ranked teams, but 107 T20s with experience across five major T20 leagues is a diverse enough sample to say that maybe Rashid's average of 15.89 at an economy of 5.95 could mean that he's going to be fine at this bowling thing.

Perhaps the brief antagony was rooted in Rashid's new-found expressiveness: no longer is he the demure youngster being guided into the big leagues by big stars. The Rashid of 2018 has been Adam Gilchrist's Twitter display picture. He is a confident man who teases the match referee on camera as he's doing the mandatory phone-drop into the bag before an IPL match. He clanks his way onto the field, powers through touchline interviews, and, as of Friday night, has an unsubtle wrist movement during wicket celebrations that tells the man he's dismissed which way the dugout is.

In the sports handbook of self-righteousness, these things - normal for any teenager who has ever been No. 1 at anything - could be potential red flags.

Ever since the playoffs phase began in Kolkata, the announcer tasked with crowd engagement failed to get chants going for a non-KKR team. He only attempted it because, technically, these were not designated home games for KKR, just one they had happened to qualify for. On Wednesday, the crowd disregarded simple instructions to scream "rah-ja-sthan" and responded with "K-K-R". They did the same with the "sun-rai-sers" chants. Even home boy Wriddhiman wasn't given any leeway.

Rashid changed everything the moment he walked across his stumps to launch a full ball over deep backward square in the last over. By that time, he had begun digging a grave for the home team, but he had endeared himself to the crowd. When he cleared the boundary not long after, they applauded.

By the time he had Andre Russell chopping to slip - a sublimely crafted wicket involving the placement of a short leg fielder to stifle Russell's plan to defend through his last over - the announcer had finally managed to draw out the correct surname in response.

"Khaaaan" had done it, and managed to sway the home crowd. How could they resist? They've seen some outlandish moments at Eden Gardens, but how often does a player strike at 340, then force a run-out, then go at an economy rate of 4.75 while taking three wickets and cap it all off with two catches? Not often.

Rashid did everything on the night: he pummelled KKR's most promising fast bowler to end his fairytale run at the back-end of the tournament. He bowled full and straight to an under-confident, panicky Robin Uthappa and repeated it against serial-sweeper Chris Lynn to have them both playing ordinary shots. In what the opposition captain Dinesh Karthik said was the turning point, Rashid also ran out Nitish Rana, the man who had been sent in at No. 3 specifically to counter his bowling threat.

And suddenly, he was the Rashid of old again: there were Indians wishing he would change his nationality, politicians latching onto his story, photos from Afghanistan of men hunched around a makeshift TV; all of this sealed off by Rashid retweeting a fake Rahul Dravid handle.

"It was much-needed for me, wanted to give my 100 percent in all departments," Rashid said at the Man-of-the-Match presentation.

And 100% was delivered. With every victory lap after a wicket, Rashid was stirring up a combined fan base from two countries. With every wicket, itself, he nudged Sunrisers back into the tournament, producing probably the greatest all-round T20 performance: the highest strike rate, the best economy rate, most wickets with the ball and the most dismissals in the field.

It's the end of May and suddenly Rashid's INR 9 crore auction price-tag now looks slim. Did the other franchises, perhaps, actually believe Rashid had been found out? They don't anymore.