Avesh Khan’s mastery in the death overs makes him a leading contender for the T20 World Cup

Avesh remains one of the prime contender to make the final cut for the T20 World Cup this year. (Source: X.com)

Something has changed for Avesh Khan this season. This is not just an opinion but a sentiment echoed by many who follow the IPL. And by change, one doesn’t mean a change of franchise, but rather the transformation he has brought to his bowling, which has made him Rajasthan Royals’ go-to bowler in the death overs. As a capped Indian bowler, it’s a responsibility given to him.  So far, he has done well to live up to the promise of the franchise.

Avesh has emerged as one of the top performers at the death overs in IPL 2024, having bowled the joint-most overs (10) in the last four alongside Mustafizur Rahman and Mohit Sharma. His economy rate of 9.30 places him among the top performers among bowlers who have bowled at least five overs during this phase in the tournament.

Playing just his second game for RR, the right-arm pacer had to defend 17 runs in the last over on Thursday night, and he did so rather comfortably, landing one yorker after another. It was a yorker masterclass. The execution was so good that despite Tristan Stubbs and Axar Patel being set, they couldn’t find ways to score off Avesh’s bowling. He conceded only four runs in that over, ensuring a 12-run win for the home team. This is one instance. Another instance of Avesh excelling at the death came in Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium. Avesh bowled the 18th over and conceded just two runs. Out of the six deliveries, four were faced by Tim David, who has one of the best strike rates in the final five overs in the IPL.

Even against Gujarat Titans, he almost pulled off another final over win for his team. Bowling the final over, he didn’t miss his mark much, but Rashid’s fortune and his bravery rewarded him that night. After a setback in the last game, Avesh roared back in style against Punjab Kings (PBKS). He bagged two wickets; one in the powerplay and one in the death. He could’ve got his third, but confusion between him and skipper Sanju Samson saw the chance going down, which cost his team 15 extra runs in the end.

The powerplay and the death overs challenge the very best in the business and are the true test for any bowler, especially in T20 cricket. Avesh is being tested, and he’s delivering. Five wickets in six games at an economy rate of 9.04. Don’t let these numbers baffle you. Stats won’t do justice to the way Avesh has bowled so far this season.

It’s not just about wide yorkers with him. He uses pace-off deliveries at the back end, can seam the ball both ways, and has a good bouncer up his sleeve. The Madhya Pradesh express has all the tools in his kit. He always had this. What’s working well is he has learned how and when to use it.

Like so many bowlers, Avesh too is eyeing a spot in the World Cup squad. India played their last T20I series against Afghanistan, and Avesh was part of the squad. He’s very much on the radar of the selectors. Jasprit Bumrah is a certainty, but who else will be part of India’s fast bowling group remains a question. What Avesh does is, he has the ability to extract extra bounce from the wicket. Due to his height, he gets good lift. He bowls a heavy ball which at times becomes difficult for the best of the batters to put away.

Among India’s vast fast-bowling arsenal, there are others who can do a lot with the ball, but Avesh remains unique in what he does.

He doesn’t have impressive numbers in T20Is, but he has begun IPL 2024 on a more promising note than many others. If Avesh can maintain this form, the 27-year-old skiddy pacer from Madhya Pradesh could present his case.