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Afghan Cricket Superstar Says National Team Must Work Hard For Success

FILE: Rashid Khan celebrates the wicket during a T20 International cricket match against Bangladesh in 2018.
FILE: Rashid Khan celebrates the wicket during a T20 International cricket match against Bangladesh in 2018.

KABUL, -- An Afghan cricket superstar says he sees a bright future for his country’s team if cricketers commit to consistent hard work in the sensational sport.

Rashid Khan, 21, arguably one of the best bowlers and a good all-rounder in the limited over format of the game, says his country’s cricketers are highly talented but they need to concentrate on staying fit and up their game by honing their skills.

“Everyone is just gifted with two hands, but players that commit to consistent hard work ultimately succeed,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “If they can work hard to improve their skills, they will become world-class players,” he said of Mujeebur Rahman Zadran, Rahmanullah Gurbuz, and Hazrat Zazai, all talented, rising young Afghan cricket stars.

Khan, a former skipper of the Afghan national cricket team, has turned into a national hero for a country reeling from more than four decades of war. Afghanistan’s rise in the cricketing world is one of the few bright spots in the country’s recent history.

He says players need to focus on staying fit to deliver consistently. “Fitness is the key to improve any player’s game in cricket,” he said.

At 17, leg spinner Khan joined his national team in 2015 and never looked back. Since then, he led his team in winning a test match, the longest duration cricket match format spanning five days, against Bangladesh last year. With 296 wickets, he is one of the best bowlers in the T20s, a wildly popular short version of cricket.

Khan’s performance for the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League contributed to his international fame. He has also participated in the Big Bash League in Australia, the Caribbean Premier League, and the Afghanistan Premier League.

He now wants to facilitate young Afghan players to follow his path by establishing cricket coaching academies in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan. In recent weeks, Khan has spent many days at his academy in Kabul. “My aim is to provide the training facilities to aspiring young Afghan players that are available in many other parts of the world but which Afghanistan currently lacks,” he said.

The Afghan cricket superstar says he is doing his best to inspire fellow Afghans. “The best thing to do is to motivate them by encouraging them instead of discouraging them,” he said during a break from training at his academy.

In a wide-ranging interview for Radio Free Afghanistan, Khan indicated his personal plans are linked to his nation’s cricketing glory. “When we win the [ICC’s] Cricket World Cup or the Asia Cup, then I will get engaged and marry,” he said when asked about his plans following many of his teammates recently marrying.

As Khan turned into an Afghan heartthrob and an international star, he has endured personal tragedies. His mother died last month while his father passed away in December 2018. “In the beginning, my late parents were not very keen on my cricketing career, but they eventually became fans and used to watch all my games,” he said.

Khan says his rise to fame has taught him to face everything including Internet trolling. “If you want to be an international star, you need to be mentally ready to face anything,” he said.

Abubakar Siddique wrote this story based on Farid Saadat’s interview with Rashid Khan in Kabul.