It is seldom in India that a foreign cricketer gets the level of admiration that Rashid Khan receives today (AB de Villiers was an exception). In the game against Bangladesh at Dehradun, fans chanted ‘Rashid, Rashid!’ every time he came to bowl. He didn’t disappoint his fans either; devastating the Bangladeshi batting lineup and sealing the series.
Such is Khan’s charisma that Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar didn’t hesitate to call him the ‘Best Spinner in the World’ in the 20 over format. Muttiah Muralitharan, the highest wicket taker; felt that the Afgan leg spinner is far more skilled than he ever was.
Rashid has become the poster boy of Afghan cricket immediately after he debuted against West Indies at a mere age of 17. He became the fastest to take 100 wickets in ODIs and 50 wickets in T20 internationals. He also showed his batting prowess in the recently concluded Indian Premier League.
However his path to glory wasn’t easy.
Rashid was born in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan during the Taliban’s rule when sport was considered a distraction from religious studies. He along with his family including 10 siblings fled to Pakistan due to the Afghan wars and later returned when life came back to some normalcy.
He grew up idolising the Pakistani all-rounder Shahid Afridi and studied the batting technique of Indian maestro Sachin Tendulkar on TV.
Surviving a Suicide Bomber:
The right arm leg spinner who tops the ICC rankings for bowlers in the shortest format survived a certain death. A suicide bomber blew himself up within meters of Kabul stadium, killing 3 people. Such was Khan’s popularity that even after the incident fans flocked to watch him, waived the Afghan flag and sung songs for him.
Talking about the Taliban insurgency the 19 year old says,” I believe that cricket is a binding force which brings many ethnic groups together and can restore peace and stability to Afghanistan.”
Afghanistan is to play their first test match against India on 14 June in Bengaluru. Ahead of the historic test match, he confidently says,” No doubt it is an important test for us as well as for the entire nation of Afghanistan and the focus would be for us to simply enjoy ourselves out there.”
Khan says his ultimate dream is to win the World Cup for his homeland. However impossible it seems at present, there is no question over his ability.