The life and career of Rashid Khan, Afghanistan’s cricket prodigy

The life and career of Afghanistan cricketer Rashid Khan has seen the theatrical treatment: The curtains parted one day and there he was.

Among a cast of romantic, colourful cricketers from the country’s fairy tale, stood the teen prodigy, the one player ready-made for the biggest stage.

Online profiles feature Rashid’s One-Day International (ODI) debut at the age of 17, the 25 teams he has represented in various formats, his admiration for Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi, that whippy, whirly action, dead-eye wrong ’un, striking ability with the bat, athleticism in the field and the ICC T20 Player of the Decade title, even though he played in only half of it.

But what about the other parts of the man that was known as Rashid Arman, the sixth of 11 brothers? The dreamer who thought he would become the family’s first doctor? The computer science student with beautiful handwriting? The part-time English teacher? The boy who was called “Peshawari” in Afghanistan’s local cricket and “muhajir” (refugee) during his college days in Peshawar, Pakistan?

There are bits that make up his life from Bati Kot to Peshawar and back to Afghanistan’s Jalalabad then Kabul, before his October 2015 ODI debut in Bulawayo – on his way to becoming Rashid Khan, the superstar.

In the life of every cricketer, there are family, coaches and teammates who watch their rise with a mix of emotions: Love, pride, delight, among lashings of envy.

We begin with a story from Inzamam-ul-Haq, the former Pakistan captain who was Afghanistan coach from October 2015 to April 2016.

Looking at a list of his squad for a 2016 tour of Sharjah, Haq noted Rashid’s omission.

While Rashid’s performance in Bulawayo had not been earth-shattering, he – out of the roster of leg-spinners Haq had first called out and tried – had impressed.

So much so that Haq ended the arguments with selectors by saying: “Only after Rashid is in the team can you talk to me about other things.”

Six years later, Rashid’s name is first on every Afghanistan team sheet.

These days, Rashid is in Abu Dhabi for the Test series against Zimbabwe.

In the touring party is senior team manager Nazeem Jar Abdulrahimzai, who, in his many past roles in Afghanistan cricket remembers 2012 as the year he first met Rashid.

At a provincial Twenty20 match in Kabul, playing for a club called Kochian, Abdulrahimzai watched an unknown teenager, of small built, batting like a dervish.

“He was opening, he scored 93. When he bowled, no one could read him. It hit the legs, bowled. It hit the pads, LBW. It’s like they couldn’t see,” said Abdulrahimzai. “I had not seen a boy like that.”

Rashid had been spotted, marked for attention and encouragement.

Abdulrahimzai started emailing regional teams, asking them to try Rashid out, pushing those who hesitated.

“Listen, I’m the domestic manager, you take him, give him training and a trial. If you’re happy with him, fine. If you’re not, he can come back.”

 

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