'Doesn't matter when I bowl': Rashid Khan relishes pressure
Within three years of making his international debut, Rashid Khan has seen his stocks rise to an unforeseeable level. The leg-spinner was an unknown commodity and had just turned 17 when he first took the field for Afghanistan.
Now though, he is the heartbeat of an entire nation, and much more. Cricket lovers around the globe have been in awe of his bowling, of his ability to torment the batsmen, of his confidence. The once shy Afghan boy is now a superstar of the sport and it shows in the way he conducts himself.
Last three years have turned his life upside down and when he spun Bangladesh out of the contest in the first T20I of the three-match series here in Dehradun, not many were surprised. Rashid though did not take any of the credit and applauded the Afghan batting instead, which came out of a middle-order slump to post a total big enough (167) for Bangladesh to chase down.
"Since the beginning, we did very well as a batting unit. The openers, the middle order, the finishers: it was a complete team effort. We focused on all three aspects of the game. We have decided to improve our fielding in this series and we have to be on top of our game throughout," he said.
Focussing on how his brief cricketing career has been, Rashid said, "Last two years have been very good for me. Since I joined the national team, I have gotten the success that I aimed for. I'm just trying my best to enjoy it. That's the most important thing."
In his three-over spell, the 19-year-old bagged three Bangla wickets and in the process became the secondfastest to breach the 50-wicket mark in T20 Internationals (31 matches).
"I didn't know that I have the chance to be the fastest to 50 wickets. I just knew that I need one more wicket to reach that milestone. I will be very happy if it happens, any achievement is very good for me."
The leg-spinner has been on a packed schedule recently. After playing in the IPL final, Rashid flew to England to feature for World XI in the charity match against West Indies. Immediately after the match, he left for Dehradun, via Delhi. Though he does accept that it takes a toll, he was quick to add that it's all part and parcel of being a professional player.
"It is a little tough but as a professional player, you have to adjust and be ready to deal with these things. I have been travelling a lot for the last two-three years. I am used to it now. I just enjoy: it doesn't matter whether it's in UK, India or anywhere else. I'm just looking forward to go ahead (in my career) and do well. What matters is your fitness. I try my best to be as fit as possible and do the right things."
In the match against Bangladesh, Rashid was held back by skipper Asghar Stanikzai and was only introduced in the 11th over. The leg-spinner was used in a similar way during the IPL as well and credits the tournament for helping him get accustomed to bowling in pressure situations.
"I bowled in the death overs in the IPL last season and continued to do so this year as well. Due to that, I became used to bowling in pressure situations and I enjoy it now. I always tell the captain that it doesn't matter where I bowl, it is my job to do the right things and keep believing in my skills.
"This IPL was the best for me as I got a lot of success. I'm just trying my best to do the positive things, to do the right things and go ahead and enjoy myself."
As far as the historic Test match against India is concerned, Rashid feels that if the Afghans stick to their basics and keep things simple, it would eventually help them in the long run.
"Don't need to do anything specific (for the Test). I will do what I have tried to do for the last two-three months and keep it simple. Doesn't matter if it's Test, ODI or T20 cricket. Just need to do the basics right.
"We don't need to do anything different as a team. We have good players. We don't need to make many changes according to the formats. We have a very good first class set up in Afghanistan, which is preparing players for Test cricket. The basics are very strong, they just need a little bit of polish and more experience. That will certainly help us in the future."