The Hush Post: What Sachin Tendulkar is to India, Indian Premier League IPL player Rashid Khan is to Afghanistan. Khan’s every move is tracked by people back home and he has played a big role in the growth of cricket in Afghanistan.
Ask him whether he enjoys the same status that top cricketers enjoy in India, and he says, albeit a little shyly: “As far as I know, after the President of the country, maybe, I am the person who is most popular in Afghanistan.”
And what made him popular? In this Indian Premier League IPL, he got some of the biggest wickets that of Virat Kohli, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and AB de Villiers. “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.” Khan was also adjudged the best T20 bowler at the Ceat awards on Monday night.
Easily one of the best in this year’s Indian Premier League IPL, he is the man most authographed and sought-after for selfies. This 19-year-old Afghan was brilliant throughout the tournament for Sunrisers Hyderabad, but there was a moment when he developed cold feet.
His magnificent all-round performance against Kolkata Knight Riders in Qualifier 2 led the cricketing maestro Sachin Tendulkar to tweet that Khan, at the moment, was the best T20 bowler in the world.
Khan learnt of this tweet when he boarded the team bus post SRH’s win and was awestruck.
“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 some time before I could eventually reply. I really didn’t know what to write, but finally I replied,” Khan said reported a national daily 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,” Rashid added.
Khan ended IPL-11 with 21 wickets, finishing behind Kings XI’s Andrew Tye, who got 24 wickets for the purple cap.
Almost, every top-order batsman was troubled by him at some point. They failed to read his googlies, leading to their downfall. Khan picked out three wickets that were special to him.
The T20 format is somewhat cruel, especially to bowlers, but Khan believes the key to his success has been the ability to be patient and confident even when 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.”
Afghanistan is all set to make their debut in Test matches against India in the middle of June, and this is one occasion the entire country is looking forward to. “It’s a big match for us as playing Tests is a dream for every cricket-playing country. All of us selected to represent our team will consider ourselves fortunate. After all, we will be making history. And, it doesn’t get bigger than the fact that we will be playing against India in India.”