From playing tennis ball cricket in the streets of Nangrahar province in war-torn Afghanistan to bagging a lucrative Indian Premier League deal, the journey has not been short of a fairytale for Rashid Khan.
Eighteen-year-old Rashid is now being called the ‘million dollar’ baby by his teammates after he was picked for a whopping Rs 4 crore by Sunrisers Hyderabad at the IPL 2017 auction.
Known to fox the batsmen with his googly and accurate quicker ones, Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan told CricketNext in an exclusive interview that he wants to target top batting stars in the 10th edition of the Indian Premier League.
“My teammates call me ‘million dollar baby’. I just smile when they call me by this name. I just want to go and prove that I am a million dollar baby with my million dollar performance.
I don’t have any pressure as far as the price tag is concerned. I just want to go and give my 100 percent. The way I am playing for my country, I will deliver the same way in IPL for Sunrisers Hyderabad and want to see my IPL team winning this season again,” Rashid said.
The 18-year-old is supremely excited about sharing the dressing room with the likes of Yuvraj Singh, David Warner, Kane Williamson and Shikhar Dhawan and the feeling he says is yet to sink in.
“It is going to be a big opportunity for me to learn from these legends.
“I am eager to meet Tom Moody (Sunrisers Hyderabad coach) and interact with him. India batting legend VVS Laxman and spin wizard Muralitharan will be there to guide me. I am eager to pick Muralitharan’s brains during the tournament. He is a legend with 800 Test wickets to his name and under his guidance, I am sure I can improve my bowling skills.
“Not just Muralitharan, Nabi and I will get chance to share the same dressing room with senior players like David Warner, Yuvraj Singh, Kane Williamson and Shikhar Dhawan. I am sure we both will have a huge learning curve," an excited Rashid said.
He also foxed Ireland batsmen with his bamboozling tweaks in the recently-concluded ODI and T20I series, which was played in Greater Noida near Delhi.
He led the bowling chart in both the 50 and 20-over formats against Ireland with 9 wickets in 3 T20Is and 16 scalps in 5 ODIs.
“The World T20 was an amazing experience for me. I lived my dream. It is not easy to bowl against star players around the world.
“I am aware of Indian conditions. My senior Mohammed Nabi will be with me. He taught me a lot of things as he has played more cricket than me. His tips during my spell are always valuable.
“I am high on confidence with three back-to-back big series (World T20, ODIs and T20Is vs Ireland). But, I don’t want to get carried away with this. I have to go a long way and will keep performing for my team. During the WT20, I concentrated on that tournament. When Ireland series came up, I stuck to my plans and succeeded. These series gave me a lot of confidence and I want to go the same way in IPL as well," the 18-year-old said.
Rashid bowls with a calm and composed demeanour, but the leggie is constantly planning on how to get the better of his opponent and that is visible is his desperation to pick up wickets.
I love to read a batsman’s mind and then I bowl opposite of what he is thinking. I need a lot of improvement and that’s why I want to discuss the plans with Muralitharan and will execute accordingly," Rashid said.
On being asked how he targets a particular wicket, Rashid said: “I try different variations during my spell and when I see that a batsman is struggling against a particular delivery, I bowl the same one but with different pace".
David Warner-led Sunrisers Hyderabad will open their IPL 2017 campaign against Royal Challengers Bangalore on April 5 and Rashid is expecting to play his team’s opening game of the glittering tournament.
“I am all set for the first match. If given a chance, I will give my best for the team," Rashid said.
Rashid, who has drawn inspiration from Shahid Afridi, owes his success to his brother who did everything to make Rashid a cricketer.
“I used to play with my brother on the streets in my hometown with tennis ball. My brother encouraged me a lot. He always used to say I have the calibre to pursue the sport as a profession. I gave trials for domestic cricket and performed well. After an impressive stint in U-19 side, I got a chance in national side. That’s how it started," Rashid signed off.