Rashid: 'Afghanistan's World Cup entry is unbelievable'

Rashid Khan says in the upcoming Indian Premier League he is going to bowl to his strength and not try anything different.

Rashid Khan said he will play to his strength in the upcoming Indian Premier League.   -  Twitter (@icc)

From being a rookie spinner from an affiliate nation to become one of the most talked about cricketers of a new Test nation, Rashid Khan has seen it all in just a year and a half. When he made his international debut for Afghanistan in 2016, little did he know that his world will change so fast.

But then, the 19-year-old believes that’s what cricket is all about, as it gives you ‘enough moments to cherish’. In a freewheeling chat with Sportstar — Rashid talks about Afghanistan's World Cup qualification, IPL and lot more.

How would you define Afghanistan’s success in the World Cup qualifiers? After a dismal start, not many thought the team would actually book a berth for next year’s World Cup...

True that. This was a huge victory for us. Bouncing back after losing the first three games was unbelievable. There was a time when even qualifying for the Super Six stage looked difficult, but thanks to Allah, we qualified. Once we made it here, we knew what to do — beat Ireland and book a berth for the World Cup. We did that and even defeated West Indies in the final. The boys really worked hard. Despite losing those early matches, the team did not lose hope and with the backing of the coaching staff, we were finally able to achieve our goal. But to be honest with you, it was tough to reach here after a dismal start.

With Asghar Stanikzai missing out on the first few matches of the Qualifiers, you were elevated as the skipper. Even though it was not a memorable outing, what did you learn from it?

I learnt a lot about captaincy this time. There were lessons on how to control the team on the field and how to focus on your bowling. So, it was a good experience. Leading the side against some of the big names of the game was challenging. Hopefully, I will improve the next time I get to lead Afghanistan.

In the tournament you became the quickest to 100 ODI wickets. How do you feel achieving such a feat?

It is immensely satisfying. It is a big proud feeling to pick up 100 international wickets in such a short time. The target would be to keep the momentum going and help Afghanistan win more fixtures.

Read: Ajinkya Rahane thrilled to lead Rajasthan Royals

In the last one year, you have played in all the franchise-based leagues around the world. Do you think those experiences have helped you grow as a cricketer?

Playing in all those leagues has helped me immensely. When you play with so many big names, you come across different atmosphere in the dressing rooms. The ground conditions are often different. In the whole process, you also get an idea about what the top players of the world are thinking about you. That boosts your confidence immensely.

And also, when you get to play in different tracks, that certainly helps you grow. The coaching staff, in all these franchises, comprise of some really top coaches. So, when you interact with them, you also get an idea about how to handle situation and pick up a lot of things from them. When they share their thoughts, they certainly help a young player to improve his game.

There is another major advantage of playing in those leagues, as you end up playing with almost all international players, so later in an international fixture, it helps you prepare better against them. Since you know the players inside out, and are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, the job gets a bit easy.

What are your plans for this edition of the IPL?

There is no special preparation for the IPL. I will play to my strength, and will continue to focus on my bowling. The target would be to keep things simple and improve my bowling. I don’t think one needs too many changes to be successful. I believe in keeping faith in my abilities and aim higher. That’s my motto before the IPL.

What are your thoughts about Sunrisers Hyderabad's combination this time?

This time, our team combination is very good. There is a perfect balance between Indian and foreign players. We have got some really good all-rounders this time, and the combination is quite good. Despite playing well last season, we weren’t lucky enough to clinch the title. Hopefully, things will be better this time around.

Also read: ‘SRH has good bench strength’

Afghanistan will make its Test debut against India in June this year. How is the team preparing for the historic fixture?

I think in Test cricket, every player is of great importance. Unlike the shorter format, the time is more in Tests and India is a great Test side. So, when we play India at its home, there will be a lot of things we can learn.

But then, the India skipper will miss the Test. Being a big Virat fan, how do you react to this?

Virat is a great player and is a match-winner for India. So, Virat’s presence would have definitely been a big boost for Afghanistan’s cricket. It is always challenging for a bowler to tackle someone like him, so had Virat been playing the Test, things would have been really good for us. Our players could have learnt a lot from him. I really wish Virat was around.