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Rashid Khan: Doesn’t matter where I bat, I want to deliver for my team

For all of Rashid Khan's bowling exploits in Afghanistan's ODI Super League action, it is his tricks with the bat that are turning heads,

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Hey fellas, don’t be jealous. When they made him they broke the mould.

That was Robbie Williams and Hans Zimmer and it is a beat synonymous with Johnny English. One cant help but find similarities between the fictional MI7 Secret Agent and Rashid Khan. One could point out humour and wits but the Afghan all-rounder is neither asinine nor clumsy. 

He does, however, have a disarming smile that lures you in and a wicked googly which makes him a national treasure. Johnny English is no match. 

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If Rashid Khan is the number one-ranked T20I bowler in the world, perhaps, it needed little reminder that his all-round prowess is hot on the heels. In addition to his series tally of 7 wickets at 19.14, he plundered 103 runs at a strike rate of 147.14 at the death, coming in at number nine. 

In the first ODI, with Afghanistan reeling at 208 for 7 with little over eight overs remaining, he blasted a quick fire 30-ball 55. The margin of victory came to be a mere 16 runs. Yesterday, in the third ODI, Afghanistan’s hopes of securing a whitewash and, more importantly, 10 World Cup Super League points were in dire straits at 163 for 7 in the 36th over. He contributed with a handy 48-run knock to help his side post 266. 

While his knocks haven’t been without a fair share of luck, one wouldn’t expect him to queue up outside the Big Ticket Store in Abu Dhabi to contest a lottery. The batting success has been a long time coming having started out as a batsman but, by his own admission, there is room for improvement with an eye on establishing himself as an all-rounder.

‘I started my career as a batsman. I was more of a batsman than a bowler,’ Rashid told an online press conference.

‘But later on when I understood that my team needed my bowling more than my batting, I started working on my bowling. I am still working on my batting. There are a few areas where I need to improve on.’ 

‘I want myself to be a proper all-rounder in the future. When the team needs me to score 40-50 runs at the end, I want to deliver for my team. It doesn’t matter whether I come in at number nine or ten but I just need to have the mentality that I have the skills and talent to express myself.’

If his role with the bat was instrumental in the third ODI to set up a daunting target on a worn out pitch, his job with the ball was far greater to spin out a side keen to bounce back. Rashid dismissed middle order mainstays Harry Tector and Curtis Campher but could not breach the defences of Paul Stirling, who brought up a valiant 118, his second ton of the series. Once Mujeeb fired one quicker to send him back, the floodgates opened as Rashid finished with 4-29.

‘I think he (Stirling) played exceptionally well throughout the series. He played spin really well. To play on a track like that against the best in the world and score a hundred is more than amazing. We just had one plan: bowl to him wicket to wicket. It doesn’t matter whatever he does. As a team, the plan was the more you bowl into the wicket, harder for him it was.’

‘Whenever we gave him room, he was strong at that. The plan we had, Mujeeb, me and Nabi, was to keep it simple and bowl wicket to wicket.’

Having returned to International cricket after ten months, a whitewash needed a collective effort from the squad and few sides can lay claim to a comprehensive victory after a lengthy period of stasis.

With only six members of the current Afghanistan squad actively playing T20 leagues around the world, Rashid considers himself fortunate for the continuous exposure to different conditions and sufficient game time. 

‘In the past few months, I have played in the West Indies, Australia and also here (UAE) in the IPL,’ he said. ‘As a player, to play in different countries, you have to keep up the hard work and maintain the energy to help you whenever the team plays an ODI or a Test match or even a T20. As a player, you have to keep in mind that you have to be fully fit and deliver for the team.’ 

‘We had a long break as well before this series. I am feeling quite happy in the middle playing cricket. It’s something different with people missing the sport a lot. It’s good they are watching it on TV and enjoying it,’ he concluded. 

Watch out for the man for all seasons – Rashid Khan.

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