And Rashid Khan is one of those players who epitomise cricket’s power to offer global stardom to anyone outside the major cricket-playing nation. Coming from Afghanistan, a country forever ravaged by war and political tension, Rashid has gone on to become one of the biggest brands in T20 cricket in a span of six years and at an age of 24.
Rashid’s rise as one of the most lethal wrist-spinners in white-ball cricket has coincided with Afghanistan’s ascent a cricket power. Their absolute dominance over Sri Lanka here on the opening night of the Asia Cup is a testimony to their potential. And it’s not just Rashid. Players like Mohammed Nabi and Mujeeb-ur-Rahman too have gone on to become global names.
However, lack of opportunities against top teams is something Rashid & Co feel strongly about. He doesn’t mind holding a mirror to the administrators who, for all the talk about promoting the sport in newer countries, have failed to provide sufficient opportunities. Here, as Rashid points out, T20 leagues around the world come handy for Afghans as they get to hone their skills in a competitive, high-quality environment.
“We haven’t played enough international cricket, especially the longer format. It’s just about the FTP. It’s not in the hand of the players,” Rashid stated at the ICC Academy on Monday. “We want to play a lot of international cricket and that (T20 leagues) gives the opportunity as youngsters come up through that. They should get the kind of environment where they can promote their cricket and skills,” he said while responding to a query from TOI.
The ‘newer’ cricketing nations pleading for more matches at the highest level have had very little effect on the administrators. Financial realities won’t support it. To substantiate Rashid’s stand, Afghanistan play 53 ODIs, 71 T20Is and 22 Tests from May 2022 to April 2027. But here’s the catch – they play nearly 75 per cent games against Ireland and Zimbabwe.
“We have come here to play as a proper Test nation. We are not here to participate and go back,” was Afghanistan captain Nabi’s curt response after their win against Sri Lanka.
Afghanistan have grown from an associate to a competitive Test member of the ICC in half a decade. But the opportunities remain dry when the ICC plans its FTP.
“Since we have been playing all the international leagues that is something which gives us opportunity to learn from the best players. That is where we learn and bring in the experience in the national team and share it. More of the players go around the world and play with the leagues, I think that is what helps us, especially in the batting department,” Rashid explained.
However, he did offer a rider. “If there is an international duty you have to be there, doesn’t matter whether you are playing anywhere on the world, national duty comes first. Hopefully in the coming years we play more quality international games. The more we play against the big teams I think that’s how we can build on our cricket and improve,” he added.