Rashid Khan, the Afghanistan leg-spinner, said cricket had “changed everything” in the country over the last few years and that nothing brought a smile to people back home as much as a good display by their national team.
Khan was speaking on Tuesday, 29 January, in Australia, at the reveal of the fixtures of the ICC T20 World Cup 2020. Afghanistan has been pooled with the likes of India, England and South Africa in Group 2, and will begin their campaign against one of the qualifiers on 26 October in Perth.
Afghanistan have come a long way since their first appearance in the competition in 2010 – they are No.8 in the MRF Tyres ICC T20I Team Rankings – and Khan said the rise of the sport had given people back home something to smile about.
Few countries have had a cricketing rise comparable to Afghanistan’s.— ICC T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) January 29, 2019
The 2020 #T20WorldCup will mark a decade since Afghanistan's first appearance in the competition.
What does it hold in store?
“It feels good. People back home, they love cricket,” he said in a panel interview at the launch. “It has changed everything in the country in the last five-six years. The young generation … everyone’s following cricket, they love it. It means a lot that Afghanistan is participating in the World Cup.
“(The fans) are loving it. They love the sport, they love cricket. (We players) just try and give 100% in each and every competition. Everywhere, we try our best to give something to the people back home. I know what is happening, so there is nothing else that can bring such a smile on their faces.
“We – me, (Mohammad) Nabi, Mujeeb (Ur Rehman) – we just try and give our best in each and every game. The World Cup will be good experience. Can’t wait for it.”
Adelaide favourite @rashidkhan_19's @ACBofficials will be in action against South Africa at the Adelaide Oval! 🇦🇫🇿🇦— ICC T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) January 28, 2019
That match starts a week of intense #T20WorldCup action that sees 10 of the Super 12 teams featuring. In addition, Adelaide will also host a semi-final. pic.twitter.com/dx0vhVGa0d
The meteoric rise of Afghanistan as a force in the sport has been matched by Khan. He’s No.1 in the MRF Tyres T20I Bowlers’ rankings, No.1 in the ODI all-rounders’ charts and No.2 in the ODI bowlers’ rankings. All this at the tender age of 20, within three years of his international debut in 2015.
That has also meant he is in huge demand for the various T20 franchises the world over – and side-effect of which is that he spends a long time away from home every year. It can be hard, but he gets by with good support from the family.
“They are just watching it, it doesn’t matter whatever the time is back home in Afghanistan,” he said. “Everyone gets together and watches in one room. It feels really good and special, having good support from the family. They just keep following me.
“When I was playing in the West Indies and the time difference was too much – matches were starting at 3am in Afghanistan – my mom was waking up and watching my game and praying for me. That is really special for me.
“Before the game, she was calling me and telling me to not worry, ‘just go there and enjoy yourself. Our prayers and support is with you’. That gives you a lot of energy and motivation. It’s needed as a player.”
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