Rashid Khan, world’s no.1 T20I bowler, has gone from strength to strength and has emerged as the face of cricket in Afghanistan. Hailed by many as the best limited-overs leg-spinner plying his trade in the world at present, it is easy to forget that the spin wizard is still only 19-year-old.
After a wonderful IPL campaign with Sunrisers Hyderabad, Rashid was also instrumental in Afghanistan’s smashing 3-0 win in the recent T20I series over Bangladesh. In latest cricket news, he sat down for an exclusive chat with cricket expert Harsha Bhogle and spoke on a range of issues.
Excerpts from the interview:
On how Afghanistan is producing so many leg-spinners
“Quite a lot of leg-spinners back home, yes. When I back home after the IPL last year, a friend invited me over to his cricket academy to talk with all the budding cricketers there. So I went there and saw a lot of players.. initially I thought that some of them would be fast bowlers, some batsmen, some left-arm bowlers. But to my surprise, he told me that all these guys are leg-spinners like you.
“I was astounded and asked him how many of them are there? He pulled out a list and told me there were 126 leg-spinners in his academy. In fact, 15-20 of them were fast bowlers earlier but embraced leg-spin later. I started laughing but what I also realised is that all these youngsters are following us in a big way. They want to change the future of Afghanistan. And I have no doubt in my mind that these are the guys who will change the image of my country in coming years.
“So naturally I was very happy to see such mass following. I wondered that this was just one academy which had 126 leg-spinners.. so just how many them must be there across the nation.”
When suggested that they should perhaps look to export them, Rashid laughed and said that there were way too many of them to even think of exporting.
On the cricket team’s responsibility to act as ambassadors for Afghanistan
“Exactly. It is a big responsibility for us as ambassadors of our country. We have to go our and show what Afghanistan is capable of doing.
“You know, there is nothing in Afghanistan that gives our people joy and puts a smile on their faces like cricket does. They derive joy out of what we do and celebrate our success. There is only cricket and nothing else which gives them such happiness.
“We are always trying our best.. Whatever happens back home, like any blast or anything. People get hurt by that. Only thing which is in our hands is to perform well so that we can eradicate the sorrows and troubles in their hearts.”
On dedicating one of his IPL man of the match awards to the blast victims back home
“Exactly, that is all we can do.. to give them some sort of happiness. We can certainly dedicate our accolades to them and share the good times. There’s nothing more in our hands. We can only pray otherwise. It hurts and feels very bad when something like the blast happens back home.
“We strive hard to make sure that Afghanistan’s name can be associated with something other than all this. But when all of this happens, our hearts are shattered. We also start feeling that extra bit of pressure knowing that we have to perform well at all costs and make the people talk about Afghanistan in a different context.
“When people talk about Afghanistan in a different context, especially all the famous people.. it makes me very happy. Even the commentators, when they talk good things about us.. it feels good. That is what we need right now.. the good things.
“All of us Afghan players try very hard to showcase something new in the ground everyday just to ensure that our people forget about all these sorrows. In fact, two my friends have also died in that blast, a few of them got injured as well.
“So when I performed well in the IPL Qualifier against Kolkata Knight Riders, all my friends called me up and said that your performance has made us forget the blast. Now, people are only talking about you and your bowling in such a crucial match. So I was also happy hearing that I could contribute in making my people forget the blast and some of their sorrows. I hope to continue doing the same in the future as well.
“The way we defeated Bangladesh recently in the T20I series (3-0), our only motto was to do something which has never been seen in the ground before so that the world takes note of us and people back home can enjoy the success as well.”