Image courtesy of: Zimbio
Many members of the cricket community opt to focus their attention solely on the top-ranked international teams and thus may know hardly anything about the Associate nations.
But, on Monday, Afghanistan spinner Rashid Khan received a massive bid of INR 4 crore (approximately USD 595,000) from the Sunrisers Hyderabad and will now feature in his first-ever Indian Premier League (IPL).
As an 18-year-old that plays for Afghanistan, Rashid doesn’t usually get a chance to shine in major tournaments given the lack of games his country feature in. But, having been presented with the opportunity to play in the star-studded event in India, the Nangarhar native is eager to make his presence felt.
Rashid watched the auction in Zimbabwe, where he is currently involved in an ODI series, while his parents and six brothers witnessed it in Afghanistan. The leg-spinner had a base price of INR 50 lakhs, but upon seeing his name generate so much interest, Rashid admitted that he experienced a flurry of emotions.
“My parents woke up early to watch the auction. I was still sleeping when they called me and told me to get up and watch because I was coming up,” Rashid told ESPNcricinfo. “So I started to also watch it from here in Zimbabwe and I was really surprised, really happy and really excited when I saw what was happening. I couldn’t believe it actually, it happened very quickly.”
Rashid excelled in the recent edition of the Bangladesh Premier League, where he took 13 wickets at an average of 14.92 in eight matches. He also had a strong showing at the Desert T20 Challenge, where he picked up six wickets for Afghanistan in four matches at an average of 9.16.
Explaining his success, Rashid said: “What makes me different is that I am a bit quicker for a leg-spinner. That is something that just came to me naturally, not something that I copied from anyone.”
Rashid will find himself in numerous high pressure situations when playing in the IPL, but he believes that he thrives in that sort of environment.
“I love pressure. Mentally, I get myself ready for pressure. That’s how I like to play,” he said. “Maybe it’s because I grew up playing with my brothers all the time and five of them are older than me but I also think it’s the experience of playing a lot of cricket in a short space of time.”
Having been selected ahead of a number of other high-profile spinners, including South Africa’s Imran Tahir, who is currently the top-ranked bowler in Twenty20 Internationals, Rashid feels that this is a sign of the giant strides Afghanistan have made in international cricket.
But, while the 18-year-old yearns for his nation to receive Test status, he pointed out that for the time being, he will focus his attention on the shorter formats.
“Our main target is to play Test cricket and all the guys are working very hard to get there,” he said. “If we can get there, you can’t imagine how good it would feel.
“In short formats, the more you enjoy it, the better you will do, and I am enjoying it a lot.”
Following the ongoing tour of Zimbabwe, Rashid will travel to Greater Noida in India, where Afghanistan will host Ireland. After that, the young spinner will begin his IPL journey.
With so much going on in regards to his cricket career, Rashid knows that whatever happens, he will always have the support of the Afghan people.
“Whenever I go home they have a celebration for me so I’m sure this time, they will do it as well,” he said.