The 19-year-old Afghanistan spinner Rashid Khan was undoubtedly the star of the recently concluded 11th edition of the Indian Premier League.
Cricket news: After the President, maybe I am the most popular person in Afghanistan, says Rashid Khan
Rashid was definitely the best bowler of Sunrisers Hyderabad and was instrumental in the team’s qualification to the finals of the tournament.
In the second qualifier at the Eden Gardens, his all-round performance led to the demise of Kolkata Knight Riders which led to the batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar tweeting that Rashid is at the moment best T20 bowler in the world.
“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 TOI 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 IPL 2018 and finished second to Kings XI Punjab’s Andrew Tye, who took the purple cap with 24 wickets.
Every top-order batsman, at some point of the tournament, was troubled by Rashid with his well-disguised googlies which resulted to their downfall.
Out of 21 wickets, Rashid named three which were special to him. “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.”
Rashid believes that in a ruthless format like T20, a bowler can only succeed if he remains patient and confident even when the batsmen are going after him.
“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.”
Rashid also praised his team Sunrisers Hyderabad’s Captain Kane Williamson for backing up the bowlers in the past seven weeks even if the initial plans had backfired.
“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.”
Afghanistan will be touring India in June for the historic maiden one-off Test match, and Rashid said that his entire country is looking forward to this moment.
“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,” insisted Rashid.
Every move of Rashid is now been tracked by his countrymen as he has played a phenomenal growth in the rise of cricket in his country.
When he was asked whether he receives the same status in Afghanistan as top cricketers in India do, Rashid shyly replied, “As far as I know, after the President of the country, maybe, I am the person who is most popular in Afghanistan.”
With a packed up schedule Rashid hardly finds any time to spend with his family. “I have not been able to spend too much time with my family, finding myself with them barely for 15 to 20 days,” he said.
But he is sure that if can continue to improve his game and make his country proud, then these small sacrifices will be worth it.