08 February 2016
Rashid Khan's simple formula to meteoric rise
Having already played internationals for Afghanistan, the 17-year-old eyes good performances in Asia Cup, World T20
Rashid, unlike the rest of the teens at the ICC Under-19 World Cup, has already made his full international debut, against Zimbabwe.
Rashid was a goof. He knew Karim was nervous posing and speaking in front of cameras, so he mostly just jumped around, egging the manager on with ideas, all with the ultimate goal of keeping Karim in the limelight in obvious discomfort. It was a teenager’s idea of mischief. And as he walked over for the interaction, he was still looking back, teasing poor old Karim. Rashid was 17, and he acted his age.
However, when the questions were put to him, his replies were a lot more composed and practised, in complete contrast to Karim. Rashid is not like the rest of the teens at the ICC Under-19 World Cup. What sets him apart is that he already has made his full international debut, against Zimbabwe, has travelled to faraway lands like Bulawayo and Sharjah, playing seven One-Day Internationals and four Twenty20 Internationals, and is used to a lot more than the pressures of an Under-19s tournament.
His meteoric rise is astonishing. Rashid started playing cricket like many others in Afghanistan – “from childhood, with my brothers outside the streets at home” – but has quickly risen since. “I started only in 2012,” he says, seemingly still in disbelief. “It’s been quite a fast achievement from me to so quickly play for the national side. All I did was to try and play simple cricket, nothing big.”
And that shows. Watching Rashid play, you are struck by the boundless energy he displays, like every kid playing gully cricket, their mind’s eye transforming the concrete streets into the plush lawns – it’s as though Rashid still does that. He has a hurried bowling action, and that works in his favour because he really likes rushing through his spells. He like to give the ball a toss, leave it hanging in the air and let the breeze do its work. And he can be particularly tricky when he uses his variations, especially the one that turns suddenly into the batsman.
He believes he is still dreaming. “It is just like a dream for me, playing an international against a Test nation,” he says. “Playing live (on television) in front of the whole nation … it was a dream that came true. I’m a bit famous now. If you played few ODIs and T20Is that are live on television, if you play live matches, you’ll definitely be famous in our country, because it is the most popular sport in Afghanistan nowadays. Most children play cricket everywhere on the streets. Wherever you go, you’ll see people playing with all sorts of balls – tennis balls, hard balls.
“It’s increasing day by day and hopefully, in future, we’ll see some good cricket from Afghanistan. We’re already seeing good cricket, but it’s just the beginning. Later on, we’ll try to give more tough times to full membership sides. A really tough time.”
Having played international cricket, the challenges of the Under-19 level mustn’t seem too daunting to Rashid. However, he hasn’t really set the stage alight. In four matches, he has six wickets at an average of 16. Three of those wickets came against a Fiji side still learning the ropes at this level. Also a middle and lower order batsman, Rashid hasn’t been able to lift the team in the batting department either, with score sequence of 1, 6, 2, 6.
Rashid said he was “disappointed”. He admitted there were lower standards at this level, but stressed that that came with its own set of problems. “I don’t feel anything particularly different,” he says. “At the international level, you can expect good bowlers and batsman. At this level, it’s slightly lower, so you can get a lot of loose deliveries being bowled. But those are tricky because it can get you out as well. I don’t think of it as anything different. I just play my simple cricket, just concentrate on bowling and batting. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Under-19 or the national team. Simple cricket is enough.”
For a proud proponent of simple cricket, Rashid’s inspiration is the unpredictable Shahid Afridi. Here’s the twist though – he likes him for his bowling. “I like his bowling. Not his batting, but his bowling,” he says. “I don’t like his batting because it used to be good when he was younger … but now he is good, but not that consistent.” Perhaps he sees a bit of himself in Afridi – legspinning allrounder, big-hitter.
For now, Rashid wants to make the best of Afghanistan’s World Cup campaign and win the Plate Championship in Cox’s Bazar. “We were disqualified from the World Cup,” he says of the elimination from the Super League phase. “It was a bit disappointing for us. But this (Plate League) is a good opportunity for us to continue [learning] for the next World Cup. For the upcoming matches, we’re ready. We want to win these few matches, and the lessons will help the next generation to come and play some good cricket.”
He has hopes for himself as well, and extending his time at the top level is first on the list. “I’ll try my level best to give a good performance in the coming Asia Cup, and also in the World Twenty20. If I keep giving good performances, more chances will come. I also want to play IPL, BBL and all those also. It’s a dream.”
And if Rashid can go on being a playful teenager and a serious cricketer simultaneously, those chances are likely to keep coming.
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