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IPL 2023: Naveen-ul-Haq – The Fiery Afghan Who Stood up to Virat Kohli

IPL 2023: With his variations on the field and antics off it, Afghan pacer Naveen-ul-Haq has ruffled some feathers.

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“Whenever India were playing, I would watch the match. That is where my passion and love for cricket started." 

This is how the 23-year-old from Kabul, Naveen-ul-Haq Murid fell in love with the game. As a child, Naveen had to migrate to Pakistan with his family from his war-torn place of birth.

However, as soon as he returned to his native land, he deep dived into his passion by getting into the Afghan under-16 side at only 11 years of age. Six years later, he first made his Afghanistan debut in an ODI against Bangladesh at Mirpur in September 2016. 

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Coming from the land of famed tweakers like Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, Naveen-ul-Haq always wanted to carve a distinct niche for himself.

He has realised his dream, having already been to the CPL, BPL, BBL and T20 Blast among others. The pacer is among the most promising pace bowlers in his national team, alongside Fazalhaq Farooqi.

Naveen has been bowling exceptionally well since making his IPL debut for the Lucknow Super Giants this year. In the four matches that he has played, he hasn't conceded over 30 runs even once, which is a notable achievement for a young bowler. What's more impressive is that already has two IPL 3-fers under his belt. With Mark Wood nursing an injury, Naveen has emerged as LSG's leading pace bowler, ahead of Avesh Khan.

IPL 2023: With his variations on the field and antics off it, Afghan pacer Naveen-ul-Haq has ruffled some feathers.

IPL 2023: Naveen-ul-Haq picked up a three-wicket haul against Royal Challengers Bangalore.

(Photo: BCCI)

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The Prelude to the Kohli-Naveen Saga

The Afghan bowler has now garnered massive media attention for his altercation with Virat Kohli during RCB's clash against LSG in Lucknow on Monday, 1 May.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, his altercation with Kohli during Lucknow's pursuit of RCB's 127-run target was the spark which ignited the fire – more like a Brazilian forest fire if that is the metaphor we are choosing to go with.

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The background to this fire was laid out during the previous clash between Lucknow and Bangalore at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on 10 April, when LSG chased down RCB's 213-run target on the last ball of the match, courtesy of a bye by Avesh Khan off Harshal Patel.

Remember the wild celebrations by Avesh? A bit too much for an individual score reading 0 (1), many might claim, while others will suggest that his antics were perfectly justified, given Harshal's audacious attempt to run the non-striker out.

LSG mentor Gautam Gambhir sprung into action after the win, shushing the partisan Bengaluru crowd to add fuel to the fire.

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Ekana Turns Into a Colosseum

When RCB arrived in Lucknow for the reverse fixture, true to form, Virat Kohli made sure that the fire was not doused, with animated celebrations during Lucknow's batting innings.

Kohli and overwhelming celebrations are no strangers. In this occasion, however, former India coach Ravi Shastri believes that it was Naveen-ul-Haq, and not Kohli, who set off the flames.

"You can see where it started. Naveen-ul-Haq started it and only Mishraji (Amit Mishra) can explain what exactly happened. I think it happened because of this only. But what happened after the match shouldn't have happened," Shastri said on air.
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The intensity went a notch further with an aggressive handshake between the duo after the match. KL Rahul, the LSG skipper, also called his bowler to have a conversation with his Indian teammate, but Naveen, seemingly, was not to keen about it.

Former Indian pacer Sreesanth, who has had a stand-off or two in his time, articulated the incident quite well.

"It's just that LSG lost at home very badly and Virat Kohli had a very good day. This happens when you are known for that aggression and because you are passionate. And he is actually explaining to Rahul exactly what happened. Maybe when Naveen was batting, Virat must have said something and Naveen must have reacted when he was about to shake hands. You can see it in his eyes, he did not mean it at all. The white-line fever should be inside the white line and not outside," Sreesanth told the broadcaster.

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The Multifarious Strengths of Naveen-ul-Haq

With several franchises such as Quetta Gladiators, Sydney Sixers, Guyana Amazon Warriors and Sharjah Warriors on his CV, Naveen has emerged as a bankable T20 bowler in franchise cricket. He has already taken 167 wickets from 136 domestic T20 matches at an impressive average of 22.88 and a more than acceptable economy rate of 8.01, with three 4-wicket hauls and the best of 5/11.

In international T20 cricket as well, the talented pacer has performed well in the opportunities he has got, picking up 34 wickets from 27 matches at 20.70 and an economy rate of 8.10.

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Naveen's extremely well-disguised variations make him very difficult to go after, in a format where the batters are looking to clear the ropes off every other delivery.

The frustration on the faces of batters, not least David Miller, was clearly visible when he conceded a miserly 19 runs each in the fixtures against Rajasthan Royals and Gujarat Titans, despite bowling his full quota.

While the quick has gone for 30 runs each in his last two games against Punjab Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore, he has picked up three wickets in both the games to stand out in the public reckoning.

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Ruffling Feathers

It has been to Naveen's advantage that he has bowled on surfaces which have offered a lot for the bowlers. In both his couple of matches in Lucknow and in Jaipur, the pitches have been sluggish and it hasn't been easy for batters to play on the up.

IPL 2023: With his variations on the field and antics off it, Afghan pacer Naveen-ul-Haq has ruffled some feathers.

IPL 2023: Naveen-ul-Haq has ruffled feathers, both on and off the pitch.

(Photo: BCCI)

Naveen's assortment of variations – his multiple slower deliveries, pin-point yorker, quick bumper and slower bouncer – have thus made life difficult for the batters, both on and off the field.

A day after the match, Naveen had his say on Instagram, with a cryptic story that read "You get what you deserve, that’s how it should be and that’s how it goes."

IPL 2023: With his variations on the field and antics off it, Afghan pacer Naveen-ul-Haq has ruffled some feathers.

IPL 2023: Naveen-ul-Haq's Instagram story.

(Photo: Instagram/naveen_ul_haq)

After his histrionics with Virat Kohli which saw him fined 50% of his match fee for a level one breach while Kohli was docked 100% of his match fee, Naveen has certainly ruffled feathers, one way or the other.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  RCB   Virat Kohli   LSG 

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