Rashid Khan, Afghanistan’s wily spinner, said that cricket has ‘changed everything’ in his country and that nothing pleased the citizens of Afghanistan more than a good display by their cricket team in the last few years.
Rashid, speaking on January 29, in an event that revealed the fixtures of the ICC T20 World Cup 2020, further said that the rise of the sport had given the people back home plenty to smile and rejoice about.
“It feels good. People back home, they love cricket,” he said in a panel interview at the launch. “It has changed everything in the country in the last five-six years. The young generation … everyone’s following cricket, they love it. It means a lot that Afghanistan is participating in the World Cup.
“(The fans) are loving it. They love the sport, they love cricket. (We players) just try and give 100% in each and every competition. Everywhere, we try our best to give something to the people back home. I know what is happening, so there is nothing else that can bring such a smile on their faces.
“We – me, (Mohammad) Nabi, Mujeeb (Ur Rehman) – we just try and give our best in each and every game. The World Cup will be good experience. Can’t wait for it.”
Afghanistan have come a long way since their first competitive appearance in 2010 and are currently the number 8 ranked ICC T20I team in the world. After a series of impressive showings in ODIs and the shortest format, the ICC awarded Afghanistan with the honour of Test status. The country played their first Test match in June against India in Bangalore last year.
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The nation has been pooled in Group 2 for the T20 World Cup, alongside India, England and South Africa and will begin their campaign in the event against a Qualifier at Perth.
The meteoric rise of Afghanistan in world cricket has been synonymous with the rise of Khan, with him heading the T20I bowler’s ranking and standing on second place in the ICC ODI bowler’s ranking. The fact that he is only 20 years of age and made his international debut only three years ago further signifies his importance and mettle to the side.
His consistent showings has ensured that Khan is in huge demand across T20 leagues all over the world. Though fame has been plenty, Khan misses time away from his family, which is the only side-effect that cricket has.
“They are just watching it, it doesn’t matter whatever the time is back home in Afghanistan,” he said. “Everyone gets together and watches in one room. It feels really good and special, having good support from the family. They just keep following me.
“When I was playing in the West Indies and the time difference was too much – matches were starting at 3 am in Afghanistan – my mom was waking up and watching my game and praying for me. That is really special for me.
“Before the game, she was calling me and telling me to not worry, ‘just go there and enjoy yourself. Our prayers and support is with you’. That gives you a lot of energy and motivation. It’s needed as a player.”