Heat set to unleash Afghan teen prodigy
Head coach Vettori enthused by the prospect of 17-year-old spinner as Brisbane ramp up BBL preparations
12 December 2018, 12:43 PM AEST
Brisbane Heat coach Daniel Vettori believes the experience of off-spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman belies his tender age, and can't wait to unleash the Afghan sensation on rival clubs when the KFC Big Bash gets underway from December 19.
At 17, Mujeeb is the youngest signing in the competition's eight-year history, but Vettori, who debuted in Test cricket just 10 days after his 18th birthday back in 1997, is unfazed by the age of his star import.
"The thing for him is, since he's arrived on the international scene he's performed wherever he's gone – and he's gone everywhere," said the Black Caps legend. "He's played in most comps around the world and he's been highly successful."
Mujeeb was part of Afghanistan's inaugural Test side that was thumped by India in June, and the teen already has 23 ODIs and seven T20Is to his name.
He has also played in domestic T20 competitions in Bangladesh, Pakistan and most notably India, where he collected 14 wickets in 11 matches for Kings XI Punjab and was one of only three bowlers to concede fewer than seven runs per over among the Indian Premier League's top 20 wicket-takers.
"He's got so much experience in such a short period of time that I think he really understands his game," Vettori continued.
"I think that's true of all the Afghan players – they all feel like their self-coached, so therefore they really know what they're doing in any situation.
"From what I've seen, he doesn't get flustered, the pressure's not an issue for him, and he just gets on with things, and particularly bowling at the Gabba, that's the mentality that you need."
Mujeeb is an off-spinner by trade but has been known to produce an assortment of deliveries, including having traditional leg breaks and wrong'uns in his armoury, while Vettori believes his extra height should make him a difficult prospect on Australia's bouncy wickets.
"The thing that separates him I think is his action," he said. "He's very tall, he bowls quick, and he bowls from a height that makes it difficult.
"His variations, while you won't see them as much on a wicket like the Gabba, his control of those variations set him apart."
In conjunction with leg-spinner Mitch Swepson, Mujeeb is expected to play a key part in what has been a consistently spin-heavy theme for the Heat under Vettori in recent campaigns.
"We've tried to play a game predominantly around spin at the Gabba with Mitchell Swepson, Shadab Khan, Yasir Shah and (Samuel) Badree over the years," the coach added.
"I think Mujeeb will continue that on."
The Heat squad has assembled this week, with an intra-squad practice game scheduled for this evening at Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast, where they will play two matches this summer.