Rashid Khan may not have gone home to Afghanistan with either the IPL trophy or the Purple Cap but he did capture the fancy of many fans and ran circles around the batsmen with his tricky spin bowling. During the tournament, the Sunrisers Hyderabad bowler barely look affected even as he bowled in front of packed crowds and to the best that world cricket has to offer – picking up wickets of MS Dhoni, AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli. But there was a moment where he was caught unawares and nervous and it happened off the field.
His marvellous performance against Kolkata Knight Riders in the second IPL Qualifier had snapped SRH’s losing streak and had everyone talking – including the Master Blaster. Post the match, Sachin Tendulkar had tweeted, “Always felt @rashidkhan_19 was a good spinner but now I wouldn’t hesitate in saying he is the best spinner in the world in this format. Mind you, he’s got some batting skills as well. Great guy.”
“When I got into the bus, a friend sent me a screenshot of the tweet and I was shocked to see it. I was thinking for like 1-2 hours before I could eventually reply. I really didn’t know what to write, but finally I replied,” Rashid told Times of India on Monday.
“The whole of Afghanistan seemed to have seen that tweet. Tendulkar is very, very famous there and everyone was surprised that he had such high praise for me. Statements like these motivate young players and infuse positive energy,” he added.
Rashid picked up 21 wickets in the tournament – three less than leading wicket-taker Andrew Tye – and made things difficult for the batsmen as they found it tricky to read his well-disguised googlies. Asked to pick the special dismissals from the tournament, Rashid said, “Getting rid of Virat (Kohli), AB (de Villiers) and MS Dhoni was very satisfying. In fact, I consider them the best wickets of my career so far. They are really good players of spin bowling so getting them out made it memorable for me.”
The Afghanistan spinner had tips for fellow bowlers on how to succeed in the T20 format. He said the crucial factor is to remain patient and confident even as batsmen dominate. “T20s is all about enjoying yourself. The more you enjoy, the better you will perform. The moment you let fear get the better of you, you are in trouble. After all, batsmen will always look to hit you and the challenge for the bowler is how to outsmart them. That’s why I enjoy T20s so much,” he said.
Rashid emphasised that at such moments, the role of the captain becomes even more important and praised Kane Williamson for confidently leading the ship. “The way he marshalled us was inspirational. He was always listening to his bowlers, offering us advice and seeking our feedback. He’s open to suggestions and that helped a lot. He also led with the bat, so every player in the team wanted to learn from him,” he said.
With IPL drawing to a close, Rashid’s focus will shift to international cricket with Afghanistan set to make their Test debut against India on June 14. “It’s a big match for us as playing Tests is a dream for every cricket-playing nation. All of us who are selected for that match will consider ourselves lucky. After all, we will be making history. And, it doesn’t get bigger than the fact that we will be playing India in India,” Rashid stated.
Arguably one of the biggest sportstar in Afghanistan, Rashid admitted that he does get treated at the same level that Indian cricketers are in the country. “As far as I know, after the President of the country, maybe, I am the person who is most popular in Afghanistan,” he said shyly.