Rashid Khan: ‘Can’t wait to be called a Test cricketer’

In February, Rashid became the youngest male player to top the ICC rankings in any format; a month later he became the youngest captain in ODI cricket.

Rashid Khan is an unusual leg-spinner, in that he does not use his wrist, but his fingers to give the ball a rip, even delivering routine leg-breaks from the back of the hand.   -  AP

Rashid Khan is widely acknowledged as one of the finest bowlers in limited-overs cricket today. In February, he became the youngest male player to top the ICC rankings in any format; a month later he became the youngest captain in ODI cricket. He is a star in the IPL. Yet, he can't wait, he says, to be known as 'a Test cricketer'. That dream will be fulfilled in June, when Afghanistan plays its maiden Test, against India at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, here. It was only in 2009 that Afghanistan played its first ODI, and in 2013 that the nation received Associate status. It has been a staggeringly swift rise.

“It will be a big day for cricket in Afghanistan. I'm really waiting for it. I can’t wait to be called a Test cricketer. That means a lot to us. I don't think there will be anyone back home not watching that game. People in Afghanistan are crazy about cricket,” says Khan.

Khan is an unusual leg-spinner, in that he does not use his wrist, but his fingers to give the ball a rip, even delivering routine leg-breaks from the back of the hand. He bowls quicker than most spinners, a quality which when combined with his repertoire of variations makes him hard to pick. “I use the top of my fingers, that’s where I get the speed. If I use my wrist, I will be slower. Nobody has taught me anything; it is all natural,” he says.

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Spin will be Afghanistan's strength in June, Khan says, while the fast bowling and batting need improvement. A great deal will depend on him, though, as it always does any time he comes on to bowl, for any side. It needs reminding that he is still only 19.

“Back home, they expect five wickets in every match from me, whether it's a T20 or an ODI. Even if I don’t perform in a single match, they ask, 'What happened to you?' There is a burden on me to do well because most of the matches I don’t do well in, we lose. However, the best thing is to enjoy yourself,” Khan laughs.

It can be difficult to focus on the cricket, sometimes, when there is violence back home, Khan admits. “We worry about it. In the last one month, we had about three-four bomb blasts. We are here, trying to put smiles on the faces of the people. However, when blasts are happening, it's just sad. We stay in touch every day with people back home. We can't be away from them for 2-3 days, because anything can happen there.”

Yet, they must continue to play. “Earlier, people only thought negative when you said 'Afghanistan'. Now they talk about cricket and us. That makes us a little happy. The image of Afghanistan is changing. That's the only thing we can do wherever we are, project Afghanistan as a good country," he says.