Rashid Khan eyes World Cup glory not wedding bells

By: AFP      Published: 09:35 AM, 21 Oct, 2021
Rashid Khan
File photo.

Rashid Khan insists his mind is occupied by the World Cup and not wedding bells as the leg-spin wizard looks to inspire Afghanistan at the Twenty20 global showpiece.

Still only 23, Rashid is key to his nation's hopes of a first world title and a potential triumph which would deliver a rare bout of good news for his home country.

However, Rashid told AFP that speculation over his private life in the run-up to the tournament, currently underway in Oman and the UAE, will not derail his ambitions.

He denied he ever said: "I will marry when Afghanistan win a World Cup."

"Actually, I was so shocked when I heard this because, to be honest, I never made a statement that I will marry once I win the World Cup," said Rashid, whose family lives in Nangarhar in the eastern part of Afghanistan.

"I just said that in the next few years I have more cricket and three World Cups (the 2021 and 2022 Twenty20 World Cups and the 50-over World Cup in 2023) so my focus will be on cricket rather than on getting married."

Rashid, who made his Afghanistan debut when he was 17, is one of international cricket's most in-demand players.

He has already played 51 T20 international matches and more than 280 games in the format for franchises around the world.

A lucrative career has seen him ply his trade in England, Australia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa and, of course, the IPL in India where he has been a regular for Sunrisers Hyderabad since 2017.

He has 95 wickets in T20 internationals with an average of just 12.63 and in 2020 was voted the ICC's Cricketer of the Decade in the format.

On the low, slow wickets of the Gulf, spin will be key.

"I think it will be a spinners' World Cup," said Rashid.

- 'Slower and slower' -

"The wickets here are mostly very good for spinners, so I think that's the main reason most of the teams have more spinners in their attack."

India have packed four slow bowlers in their 15 with Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Varun Chakravarthy and Rahul Chahar while England have Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone.

Defending champions the West Indies have Akeal Hosein, Hayden Walsh and Roston Chase. Chris Gayle can also turn his arm over.

Pakistan can call on Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz and Imad Wasim as frontline spinners. Veterans Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik can also give the ball a tweak.

New Zealand have Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santner and Todd Astle.

Australia, yet to win a T20 World Cup, will look to Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar.

Rashid is not Afghanistan's only front line spinner -- there is also Mujeeb Ur Rahman and skipper Mohammad Nabi.

"What I noticed during the Indian Premier League (the conclusion of which was also played in the UAE) was that wickets were good but there was not that much spin," said Rashid.

"But I think the more we play in this World Cup we might see wickets which are a bit different and the more you play on these tracks it becomes slower and slower and they will be handy for spinners."

Rashid refused to predict any favourites for what is the seventh edition of the World Cup.

"Well it's T20 and anyone can beat anyone on the day," said Rashid, who stepped down from the captaincy ahead of the event over not being consulted in squad selection.

"We have a mixture of both experienced and young players and most importantly it's quite balanced with a few all-rounders which makes the side very balanced, especially in T20 when you have more of that all-round option."

Afghanistan are in Group 2 of the World Cup with India, Pakistan, New Zealand and two qualifiers in the Super 12 stage which begins on Saturday. 

Scots to 'create history'

Scotland coach Shane Burger says his team is ready to "create history" by reaching the second round of the T20 World Cup for the first time.

The Scots stunned Bangladesh by six runs in their tournament opener, despite being 53-6 at one stage, and then edged Papua New Guinea by 17 runs.

On Thursday, they put their perfect record on the line against hosts Oman where a third win will move them into the Super 12s.

"We've already created history in this tournament by winning two games. That's more than any Scottish team has done previously. We want to go one step further," said Burger.

Scotland came into the 2021 tournament having never progressed beyond the first round in their three previous appearances, winning just one game in seven.

"All the goals that we've set have been over and above this group stage. We've spoken a lot about getting into round two and what we want to achieve getting into round two.

"We've not really got out of third gear yet. I don't think we've put a full game of cricket together yet - we have only shown glimpses so far.

"Glimpses with the bat, glimpses with the ball, glimpses in the field, but we're going to have to bring all of that out against Oman and go again."

Defeat would leave Scotland and Oman on four points but the Gulf team have a superior run-rate which would be the tie-breaker to decide who makes the second round.

If they win and top the table, Scotland will go into Group 2 of the Super 12s alongside Afghanistan, India, New Zealand, Pakistan and the runners-up from qualifying Group A.

"The magnitude of the game is tremendous in terms of the bigger picture, not only for Scottish cricket but just associate cricket as well I think," Burger added.

"The belief is there amongst the group and the unit so it's huge in terms of Scottish cricket.

"It also has the ability to inspire a nation and to be the first Scottish team to create history and do something that we've never done before is certainly in the back of every player's mind.

"To leave a legacy of being the first Scottish team to do that is certainly a motivation of ours and to inspire all those young cricketers - not only in Scotland but around the world."

Oman defeated Papua New Guinea in their opening game before losing to Bangladesh but skipper Aqib Ilyas is confident his team's superior net run rate could be key.

"The thing is they have won two matches, they might be positive but cricket is such a funny game that after winning two games they are still in a position where if they lose, they could be out," said the Oman skipper.

"We are positive because they feel pressure but we're not under pressure because it's just a game that we have to win. After winning the last game they might have thought they were qualified.

"But now our run rate is so higher that if we just win the match, we go through and they are out."