Afghanistan teenage sensation Zakir Khan couldn’t have asked for a better start to 2018. The 19-year-old not only played for the Afghanistan U19 team in recently held World Cup in New Zealand but he also managed to bag an IPL 2018 contract with IPL season 1 winners Rajasthan Royals.
The Chinaman bowler made his international debut for Afghanistan in 2015 against Papua New Guinea and has played in a couple of T20 leagues around the world including the Bangladesh Premier League. His eye-catching performances for the national team over the past one year persuaded the 2008 IPL winners to spend INR 60 lakhs in acquiring his services. Speaking about his joy following the auction, Zakir said, “Rashid and Nabi (both Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2017) made an incredible impact in the IPL. It is the most popular, successful T20 league in the world. I didn’t expect any franchise to buy someone like me, who has just played for the U-19 Afghanistan team.
I couldn’t believe, it’s a big deal to get an IPL contract. I was thrilled to know Mumbai Indians even bid for me.”
For the upcoming season of the Indian Premier League, Rajasthan Royals have managed to bring back their former captain and coach Shane Warne in the capacity of a mentor. Zakir’s joy at being picked up at the auction only doubled once he heard that he will have a chance to work with legendary Australian spinner. Speaking about his excitement at being handed this opportunity, the Afghanistani international said, “Young spinners aspire to become Shane Warne or Muttiah Muralitharan. I would watch his bowling videos on the internet and how he plotted dismissals. It would be great to have him during IPL and learn from him. IPL will give me a great opportunity to understand modern cricket from a legendary cricketer like Warne.”
Zakir Khan will be joining his compatriots Rashid Khan and Mohammed Nabi for the 11th season of the IPL. However, unlike him, both Rashid and Nabi have done extremely well in the previous seasons, something the young spinner is looking to emulate whenever he his handed an opportunity. The 19-year-old spoke about their influence back home and how it motivated him to be part of it. He said,”Earlier, we would follow India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka cricketers, but now we have our own players as icons. Rashid, in particular, has been a great ambassador of the game. His positive feedback and reassurance about IPL made me keener to become a part of it.”
Afghanistan were recently handed the test playing status by the ICC and are scheduled to play their 1st ever test match against India in Bengaluru in the summer. Speaking about his future plans and the road ahead, Zakir was optimistic about being part of the historic test match. He said, “Everyone dreams of playing for the nation. I was thrilled we reached the U-19 World Cup semifinals, made our presence felt. I want to deliver the goods in IPL. Afghanistan is on the cusp of creating history by playing the first Test (vs India in Bangalore in June). I hope I can be part of the national team for the historic Test, that too against Virat Kohli-led India. Virat is the most popular, most watched cricketer in Afghanistan.”