Left-Arm Wrist Spinner Noor Ahmad: A Rising Star in T20 Franchise Leagues
Rashid Khan was an idol to the left-arm wrist-spinner growing up. They are now teammates, and Noor constantly nags Rashid.
Noor Ahmad giggles uneasily. As we sit down to talk, the left-arm wrist-spinner from Afghanistan, age 18, who competes for Gujarat Titans in the IPL, expresses concern about his command of the language. He is picking up the language as he goes along while playing in T20 franchise leagues around the world in both hemispheres.
On the morning we met, Noor fell asleep at six o’clock. He claims he said his fazr prayers before turning it off and did it again just before our interview.
Any reservations he might have had about his English vanish as he begins talking cricket fluently about a minute into the exchange. He smiles widely, and his eyes sparkle. His face has indications of a beard.
In the previous night’s home game against Mumbai Indians in Ahmedabad, Noor Ahmad and his mentor, veteran Afghanistan and Titans teammate Rashid Khan, threw a wrench into the plans shortly after the powerplay. Mumbai only scored 29 runs in the first six overs of their harrowing 208-run chase, and at the midway point, they were 58 for 3, having lost the opener and skipper Rohit Sharma.
Cameron Green and Tim David, two Mumbai weapons of mass devastation created in Australia, were dismissed in the following over by Noor, thrilling the home fans. Suryakumar Yadav was Mumbai’s final remaining hope.
Although Suryakumar scored 15 runs off Rashid’s 12th over, on Noor’s second delivery in the 13th over, he attempted to push at a ball that was turning in after the bowler had pitched on a good length and popped a return catch.
Noor Ahmad remarks, “That wicket was almost like a dream.” “I wanted to get that kind of batsman out of the game. Due to his excellent sweeping and slogging skills, I pitched back of the length.
Excitedly attempting to throw the ball up in the air to celebrate, Noor Ahmad lost control of it and was able to catch it more firmly.
Noor’s season-to-date total includes three wickets from Mumbai and those from Sanju Samson of the Rajasthan Royals, Nicholas Pooran, Krunal Pandya, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, and Rinku Singh of the Kolkata Knight Riders. Noor Ahmad joined the Titans’ starting XI after debuting as an impact player.
The first career-turning moment for Noor Ahmad occurred in 2018. The country’s cricket body held an open selection trial in Khost, in southeast Afghanistan, to choose local U-19 talent. He took part in it. Raees Ahmadzai, a former Afghanistan batter who oversaw the board’s Under-19 program and served as a coach and selector, felt Noor Ahmad was a bowler with the exceptional quality he was looking for.
To provide a new bowling technique and variation, Ahmadzai says he wanted to have a left-arm wrist spinner. “He impressed me with how he bowled, and Noor displayed confidence in his actions.”
About 125 kids attended the trial. Based on physical attributes and cricketing abilities, this group was reduced to 75, then 40, and eventually, a squad of 15 was chosen. Noor Ahmad was selected.
He first put his name in the pot for the IPL auction in 2019 when he was 14. He continued showcasing his talent despite failing to succeed that year or the one after.
Noor Ahmad’s Bowling Arsenal: The Leg Break, Googly, and Rapid Leg Spinner
He played a key role in a nail-biting match against India at the Under-19 50-over Asia Cup that year. India narrowly won. Noor, defending 125, finished with 4 for 30 in his 10 overs; among his victims were Tilak Verma, now playing for the Mumbai Indians, and India captain Dhruv Jurel, who was bowled and now plays for the Royals after being trapped lbw.
Ahmadzai, who led Afghanistan in the competition, recalls Rahul Dravid, his Indian counterpart, being impressed with Noor Ahmad at the time. Noor Ahmad debuted in the first class that same year.
Noor played his second game for the Melbourne Renegades in his first BBL season two years later, early in January 2021, when he turned 16. Liam Livingstone was one of the most destructive batters in the world, and he had never bowled on such a large stage against him. Although the Perth Scorchers defeated the Renegades in that match, Noor celebrated his birthday by stumping Livingstone.
It was a googly, and he passed it up. I took a slight diversion from his batting arc when I bowled. He recalls that there was some bounce in the wicket, which was helpful to me.
Titans purchased Noor Ahmad for his introductory price of Rs 30 lakhs ($40,000 approximately) at the super auction in preparation for the 2022 IPL. The chance to bowl alongside his idol, Rashid, was a memorable day for the lad who had grown up watching the IPL.
Noor Ahmad didn’t play last season, but he recently played in his debut IPL match against the Royals after being added as an impact player with six overs left. The Royals needed 77 from the 36 deliveries. The fourth ball of the over, a wide googly outside off stump, was hit for a six by Sanju Samson. A leg break ball that went well outside the leg stump on the following ball was happily dismissed for an easy four-past short fine leg.
Noor says, “I was certain he’d try for another six.” There was a risk that he might mistime me if I tried bowling slightly away. And that’s what exactly took place. Even though there was pressure during the first match because I had never done it, I just wanted to enjoy myself. I am aware of how vital the IPL is for cricket. I’ll succeed more if I have fun doing it. I aim to bowl at the best players, and I’ve already struck out a few. To these guys, I’m just having fun bowling.
Noor Ahmad was equally as anxious and enthusiastic about his IPL debut as his family back in Afghanistan. Noor Ahmad exclaims, laughing, “The amazing thing was that one of my brothers got up, punched a door, and shattered it in the first game when I got the Samson wicket.
” “The entire door,” He responded, “Why?” I was not in control of my emotions, he claimed.
Four sons and four daughters make up Noor’s family of eight. The family resides in Khost’s Lakhan district. Noor’s father, Mohammad Amir, wanted him to continue academics because he was a good student growing up rather than risk his cricket career.
“I started playing professional cricket after finishing grade 10 in school. I am in a terrific position at the school, and [Dad] expressed concern that I won’t play cricket at a high level.
Outside the family, there was pressure to reconsider starting a cricket career. ‘He is a nice kid in school; he is talented, so please don’t allow him to play cricket,’ the principal and other teachers would sometimes come and speak to my father. Take him to school. Every gifted Afghan athlete faces this problem, according to Ahmadzai.
Cricket Australia via Getty Images “Big match, big wicket”: Noor Ahmad celebrates signing Liam Livingstone for the BBL on his 16th birthday
If Noor has anyone to thank for helping him persuade his father to let him play cricket, it’s his brother Mohammad. “My dad always supported me in playing cricket, despite his constant attempts to persuade him.”
Every IPL game is now something the family looks forward to seeing. According to Noor Ahmad, his father is “pleased.” “They claim they lack the words to express their feelings adequately when we talk after the match,” I said.
Noor began playing tape-ball cricket, like many other Afghans. He obtained his foundational knowledge of spin bowling there. It was the beginning of his leg spin bowling, he claims. And at the end, I was bowling the disappearing ball.
Rashid’s entry onto the international stage was around Noor Ahmad’s adolescence. Young people like Noor watched and became fascinated with Rashid’s sorcery as he baffled batters in T20 leagues worldwide. Noor realized he could learn techniques from Rashid’s bowling and apply them to his own, even though he bowls with his left arm. I wanted to bowl like him after seeing him.
The variants that Noor Ahmad now employs are the leg break, googly, and a slider that is more of a rapid legspinner. He delivers them at various speeds using a variety of grips, which adds to the mystery. Ahmad moves quickly and whippy as Noor approaches the crease.
One of his strengths is how fast he can bowl. Ahmadzai, who served as the tournament’s head coach and guided Afghanistan to a fourth-place finish, recalled working closely with Noor. He was bowling at 115-120 kph and was relatively rapid, similar to a medium pacer. That’s how I felt. This player would be challenging to hit, especially if he bowls far or provides no room to play the cut or pull. If he struck the ball right
Noor believes that his fast tempo aids in giving batters less time to react. It will provide the batsman with less time to play the ball. “A good combination is a good pace and a little turn,” he explains.
Noor Ahmad’s IPL Experience and Lessons Learned
He seeks to pick up clues from batters to aid in his bowling strategies. “My goal is to be able to read the batter’s thoughts, or at the very least attempt to do so. I want to know the scenario, what the team needs, and what the batsman will do. It all comes down to my continued confidence.
Rashid is the only one who appears to be as delighted by Noor’s achievement as his family. After the victory over Mumbai, Rashid gushed over Noor’s performance to the announcer. “That little kid, he just wants to learn,” he declared. And Ahmad is working hard. He continued to inquire while working and bowling frequently in the nets last year.
He would come to the gym even as I was working out and suggested we bowl there. He arrived at 1 or 2 in the morning when I was in the gym during Ramadan, and we were bowling there. “He has had the opportunity now, and he has been delivering. He wanted to become better so much, and he wanted to perform so poorly. He has been giving, and I am overjoyed. It’s excellent news for both GT and cricket in Afghanistan.
Noor’s first IPL cap was given to him by Rashid. Noor then casts a glance back at the exchange. “Finally, you get the opportunity to play at this kind of high level, which is every player’s ambition, he [Rashid] added. You earned this position through your perseverance and hard work.
Noor laughs and agrees with Rashid that he can ask his senior teammate any questions he wants about bowling. “Yes, it is true; I question him even when we share a meal. Whenever I am with him, I never stop asking questions. For me, he’s like Google!
He was Jubilating with Rashid after a wicket. “Whenever I am with him, I always have a question for him. In Noor’s opinion, his teammate and idol, “He is like Google for me,” Associated Press.
“I have gained a lot of life lessons from Rashid, both on and off the pitch. One of the most crucial things is to always believe in yourself, meet challenges head-on, and never give up.
Noor claims that as he practices in the T20 leagues, he is learning how to spin effectively, which requires him to use a lot of body power to drive the pace.
Noor has only played in one ODI, a match against Sri Lanka during a tour there late last year, but Ahmadazai thinks it won’t surprise him if he is selected later this year in India for the ODI World Cup.
Additionally, he has demonstrated batting ability under pressure. Ahmadzai declares that the man is courageous. “I recall his performance against Naseem Shah and other fast bowlers in the Under-19 Asia Cup in Sri Lanka on a green top. We prevailed in the game thanks to his 17 crucial runs.
Noor believes his IPL experience will help him make a stronger case for being included on the World Cup roster for Afghanistan. “Playing for my country has always been my dream. Win matches for my country. As a result, I am eagerly anticipating the opportunity. Inshallah.”
Noor was born three years before the IPL began. Over the years, he developed a fondness for Royal Challengers Bangalore. Before Rashid, AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli were his two favorite athletes. These days, he bowls against players like Virat Kohli while playing with his idol. What would he most like to remember about his debut IPL season?
I want to improve and get some star players’ wickets,” he says.
A-list athletes like Kohli? Noor responds, “Of course I want.”
I’m hoping for the best for Noor’s future. He laughs, adding, “And best of luck to my future in English.”
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