‘Special Talent’ Rasheed Arrives On The Big Stage

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - 'Special talent' Rasheed arrives on the big stage. Rasheed struck 94 off 108 balls with 8 fours and 1 six.

‘Special Talent’ Rasheed Arrives On The Big StageRasheed struck 94 off 108 balls with 8 fours and 1 six.

‘Did any legend die when your son was born?' Shaik Balishavali would often be asked by fellow parents flocking the coaching centre near Mangalagiri, a suburb near the town of Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, where the Andhra Cricket Association (ACA) has raised an academy. Balishavali would scratch his head in a dilemma thinking why would they inquire about such a thing. It dawned upon him soon enough that it was because his son SK Rasheed was a cut above the rest.

Balishavali did not know much about cricket, let aside the legends of the game. When his son was picked for the India Under-19 World Cup side as vice-captain, he felt that all that talk, after all, was not merely banter. His son's talent was on display in the U-19 World Cup semifinal against Australia in Antigua where Rasheed belted a classy and tenacious 94 that lifted India to a formidable total on Wednesday (February 2).

Rasheed's selection was reward for hours and hours of hard work by the father-son duo. His father lost his job twice in order to help his son. He rode his son on his scooter for 12 kms every day to a ground where he would give him throwdowns. Then he would have to take him to Mangalagiri, almost 40 kms away from his house, where the boy would train under state and district coaches.

He had to give up his job in automobile firms because he would be late to work. “I was asked not to come to work at least twice,” recalls the doting father who struggled to finance to Rasheed's career. “Each ball (season ball) would cost Rs 400 and the kit would be very expensive. So I gave him throwdowns with a synthetic ball. We get three-four for the same price.”

In a conversation before the team left for the Caribbean, Rasheed had this to say: “It was made sure by my father that I never got to know about such things. I knew it was not easy but dad would manage the finances.”

A friend of Rasheed's father from Hyderabad saw the talent of the little boy and liberally donated for his cricketing expenses. “That was a nice gesture from my friend Indra Sena Reddy,” says Balishavali. “He is a doctor from Hyderabad and would never hesitate to help.” Also offering help was coach J Krishna Rao from Guntur, who coached Rasheed for almost 10 years. “He comes from a very humble background and I have not seen a more dedicated father. I know what all he has sacrificed for his son's career,” says the former Andhra coach who has seen few cricketers as capable as Rasheed. “The boy has got very high cricketing intelligence and smartness. Adding to his strength is his passion as well as his father's. It is the story of hard work, passion and sacrifices.”

Once selected for the state age-group teams, there has been no looking back for Rasheed, a right-handed batsman who bats at No 3. In the Vijay Merchant Under-16 Trophy (in 2018/19), he scored 674 runs in six games at an average of 168.5, including three centuries – the highest being an unbeaten 200. In the Vinoo Mankad Under-19 trophy (this season), he accumulated 376 runs in six games at an average 75.2, including two hundreds. He led India in India A's U-19 team in a couple of games which also featured current skipper Yash Dhull. Rasheed's scores in those games were 125 (off 123 balls) and 30 (off 24 deliveries). The chemistry between the captain and vice-captain was palpable in the semifinal, where they added 204 runs for the third wicket.

Rasheed did not play much white-ball cricket for a long time. The initiation came when he took part in the Andhra Premier League (APL) last year. “It felt good,” Rasheed recalls. “A lot of good players, including KS Bharat, took part and I realised how to rotate and how to accelerate. I got confidence from the APL about playing white-ball matches. I also realised my strengths.”

MSK Prasad, who hails from Guntur, has seen, followed and heard about Rasheed for a long time. The former India chief selector has no doubts about the abilities of the boy but credits his father for the success. “I remember the boy getting centuries at will right from junior grade cricket. We always knew he is a special talent. We had sent him for special training in England for six weeks when he was 13. In the last two years, he grew quite tall and got good command over his footwork. But I would give credit to his father who sacrificed a lot for the boy's career.” The happy father then quips, “It was all worth the effort.”

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