He is arguably the most popular bowler in world cricket right now. Whether it is in the Indian Premier League (IPL) or in national colours, his fast leg-breaks and googlies are literally making the batsmen dance to his tunes. Even someone like Sachin Tendulkar considers him as the best in the business. Yes, it is none other than Rashid Khan’s the spin-sensation from Afghanistan.
Recently, on the sidelines of his assignment with the national team in Dehradun, the author has spoken with the 19-year old in an exclusive interview.
Here are the excerpts of the chat.
CricketSoccer (CS): First of all, tell me have you seen the tweet of Sachin Tendulkar in which he has mentioned you as the best bowler in the T20 format? If yes, then how did you react when you saw it for the first time?
Rashid Khan (RK): It is surprising that you asked me, ‘have you seen’. I think there will be no one [who is a cricket lover] who haven’t seen that tweet.
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.
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) May 25, 2018
When I finished my match [in Kolkata] and came to bus and opened my mobile, I got the message from my friend. He sent me screenshot [of the tweet]. I just saw that he [Sachin] tweeted about me. I think that is the best thing to happen. I think that encouraged me a lot, that really motivated me. Then I was thinking for two-three hours, what to reply to him, how to say thank you. Because I don’t’ think that such a player will come again to this world. So, getting a tweet from him regarding the best leg-spinner is very special.
CS: Bowling to Tendulkar is a dream of every bowler. But you are born in an era in which you won’t be able to do that in a competitive set-up. How disappointed are you?
RK: I would love to bowl to him. I think taking his wicket is something else but you know just bowling to him is a dream of every player, every bowler. So, I should consider myself a little bit unlucky not to bowl to him.
CS: I know you consider Shahid Afridi as your role model. Recently you played alongside him in a charity game in London? Did you have a chat with him about your career?
RK: Shahid bhai and Anil Kumble are my favourites. I used to watch them a lot, love their bowling. We [Me alongside Afridi] just played a World XI match at Lord’s. He met me. First of all, he congratulated me a lot for the success in IPL and for the other performances. He was quite happy. He told me, ‘I am happy for you. Keep it on. Wish you more success in the future.’ He has given me lots of respect there. [There was] Lots of good talking [between us]. It was a short but good time. So, it was really pleasing meeting him.
CS: Soon we will see you bowling with the red ball in Test cricket. So far, you have been successful with the white ball. Now, what are the changes you are implying in your bowling to adapt to the longer format?
RK: I don’t think, I should change anything. Because it won’t be acceptable if I change my pace from 95 [kmph] to 86-80 [kmph] or something like that. I think that will hurt me and I won’t get success with that. I trouble the batsmen with my pace and with quick arm action. I understand I want to continue with that. Just to bowl in the good length area. [I have to] enjoy the game, doesn’t matter whether it is ODI, Test cricket or T20I as long as I am troubling the batsman. You just need to focus on your skills, believe in yourself and enjoy the game.
CS: Disappointed that you won’t be bowling to Virat Kohli in this historic match?
RK: I would love to bowl to him [Kohli] in Test cricket as well. He is the best batsman right now in the world. [But] I think there are lots of other [world-class] batsmen in the [Indian] line-up. KL Rahul is there. I don’t think Rohit Sharma is there, but you know Shikhar Dhawan is there, Ajinkya Rahane, [Cheteshwar] Pujara is there. So, would love to bowl to them as well. It will be a very exciting match.
CS: Describe the emotions of playing Test cricket for the first time.
RK: It will be a big day for the whole country, all players. We really can’t wait for that day. It will be a very exciting day, [we are] very excited about it. So, hopefully, that will come and we will try our best to do well and give our 100 percent. Doesn’t matter whatever the result is, we [will] just show [the world] that we are capable of Test cricket. Inshallah, I have full belief in our guys, the talent they have in every department. Inshallah, they will not disappoint anyone.
CS: How confident are you that other full-members will play against Afghanistan in the longer format more frequently?
RK: It’s very good to play against big teams in a longer format. But if you see the schedule right now, it is quite tough to adjust these things. We [have] just got the full status. Hopefully, the diameter will increase. Suppose we are playing 2-3 Tests in a year, it will be improved year by year. It will go to 5-6 then 10, something like that. So, we will be pleased to play against big teams. But right now, it’s a little bit tough to adjust [to accommodate]. But hopefully, in future, there will be some gap there in which we can play against England, Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Pakistan…
So, looking forward to playing against any team. Playing Test cricket is very special.