INTERVIEW: Rising star Rashid Khan is dreaming big with Afghanistan

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Rashid Khan has had a memorable 2017 for his country.

It’s hard to believe that Rashid Khan only made his international debut as a 17-year-old teenager two years ago but his sheer potential has already got people discussing how great he could be.

Ever since donning the Afghanistan national colours for the first time in the 58-run ODI victory over Zimbabwe in October 2015, the only way has been up and his journey has been nothing short than a fairytale story.

A young man whose road began by playing tennis ball cricket in the streets of Nagrahar province of Afghanistan, Rashid has now emerged as the face of the national team.

Not bad for someone who is just 19.

From the outset, it would have seemed hard to top his 2016 season – which yielded 45 international wickets across ODI and T20 formats – but he has improved greatly this year.

The first chapter came in February during the IPL auction when Sunrisers Hyderabad splashed out Rs 4 crores to bring in the most-sought Associate nation cricketer.

When his biggest stage came in April, he didn’t disappoint. In fact, he could not have started the T20 league any better considering he took two wickets in the 35-run victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore on the opening day.

Mandeep Singh and Travis Head were the unlucky victims on that evening and by the time Rashid flew back from India at the end of the tournament, big names Brendon McCullum, Suresh Raina and Aaron Finch were among his 17 scalps from 14 matches.

But that was just the start of things to come with Guyana Amazon Warriors splashing out $60,000 for his services in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL)

Again he enhanced his reputation as one of the world’s best when he put himself into the record books by becoming the first bowler to take a hat-trick in the victory over defending champions Jamaica Tallawahs.

Rashid became the first bowler to take a hat-trick in the CPL.

Rashid became the first bowler to take a hat-trick in the CPL.

By that time, Rashid had already been labelled the ‘million dollar baby’ by his international team-mates and  those dollars will certainly keep rolling in over the next three months considering Quetta Gladiators and Adelaide Strikers have snapped him up for their respective Pakistan Super League and Big Bash League campaigns.

In between his T20 league stints, Rashid has continued to excel for his country. His first T20 five-wicket haul (5-3) came against Ireland in March this year, which is the joint fourth-best in T20 internationals.

Another highlight came against West Indies in the 63-run victory at Gros Islet where he ripped through the batting order to come away with 7-18. Not only was it his second five-wicket haul of the year but his figures was the fourth best in ODI history.

So, it’s certainly been a busy and emotional 12 months for him but in his own words, it’s been a “memorable” year for him.

“I think you can say that this year is one of the most memorable years which has been a dream for me,” Rashid told Sport360° during Afghanistan’s ICC Intercontinental Cup match against the UAE at Sheikh Zayed Stadium last weekend.

“This year, I played in all the major T20 leagues and also played many times for my country. I made some records and recorded good bowling figures and it was a really good year for me.

“I really enjoyed myself and playing under different coaches and learnt from all of them as they have different experiences and knowledge. I played in the IPL, Caribbean Premier League and my country where we played in Zimbabwe and West Indies, and I got a lot of confidence. Inshallah, I’ll try my best to do the same in 2018.

Rashid's spell of 7-18 blew away the West Indies earlier in the year.

Rashid’s spell of 7-18 blew away the West Indies earlier in the year.

“For sure the IPL was fantastic. It was only my second match against Gujarat Lions when I took the wickets of Suresh Raina, Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch. They were three big wickets because they are the big players in T20 cricket. To get that in India and in the IPL was a proud moment for me and my country.”

He could well steal the limelight again in 2018 for Quetta Gladiators when the third edition of the PSL is held in the UAE. Sharing the dressing room with the likes of Kevin Pietersen, Jason Roy and Carlos Brathwaite is something he can look forward to.

But with Afghanistan set to play in the pre-2019 World Cup qualifiers in March, Rashid gave his strongest hint he could have to wait another 12 months to get a piece of the PSL action.

“I have been picked up by Quetta Gladiators but I don’t think I will play as we have a busy schedule for the upcoming months with Afghanistan,” he said. “So I don’t think I will be available for that tournament.”

Whether he plays in PSL or not, 2018 is already shaping up to be the most important year of his career.

With Afghanistan joining Ireland as the two newest Test nations, Rashid will have a chance to torment the elite batsmen on a more regular basis against the world’s best, rather than Associate nations.

Their 10-wicket triumph over the UAE on Saturday saw them regain the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup and Rashid sent out another reminder that he can also be lethal in the five-day game by taking the man of the match award with his 8-152.

Discussions are already underway of when Afghanistan could make their Test debut with Zimbabwe mooted as a likely opposition.

And it’s an opportunity that Rashid is certainly looking forward to.

“It will be tough cricket for us,” he said. “We have just played with Associate members but now it will be a total change of scenario for us. The guys are working very hard on the field especially in fitness, bowling and batting. So we are preparing ourself for the bigger tests and challenges. Inshallah we can do well. We have the ability, we have the talent and we just to neutralise that in the right way.

Given he has achieved all this before he’s even reached 20, Rashid says his achievements so far is not just down to him alone.

“When I came to the national team set-up, the coaching staff and the coaching staff especially the skipper (Asghar Stanizkai) supported me. The senior guys told me I had the talent but I just needed to improve my skills more. So I got motivation from that and work hard and that’s how I try my best every day.

The chances of him captaining his national team in all formats one day in the future is very likely. “I have already been appointed vice-captain of the team. Asghar (Stanikzai) has been leading the team for the last four years and the way he has been leading the side has been amazing.

“I have been learning a lot from him on and off the field. Hopefully if I get the opportunity, Inshallah, I will try my best to lead.”

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Who will win the Adelaide Test - Former players give their verdict on Twitter

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Michael Vaughan is dreaming of an England victory.

The Adelaide Test is perfectly poised as we head into the final day after England came roaring back into the match on the penultimate day.

The tourists need 178 runs more to win on Wednesday while Australia need six wickets to take a 2-0 lead in the Ashes.

While an Aussie win seemed like a certainty after the first three days, equations have changed drastically.

As such, Twitter was awash with former players from both sides chiming in with their thoughts as to where the Test was headed.

Former England skipper Michael Vaughan’s twitter timeline was a good indicator as to how the visitor’s chances increased drastically as the fourth day wore on.

Vaughan sounded pessimistic at the start of the day but his optimism increased with every passing minute.

Not yet …… https://t.co/h5AEiA8yzv

Former Australian leg-spin wizard Shane Warne was thrilled with an exciting day of Test cricket but he believes his compatriots still hold the edge in the final day.

Warne thinks Moeen Ali’s wicket will be key for an Australian victory on Wednesday.

Michael Clarke, the former Australian skipper, was impressed with the cricket on display but he too chose his compatriots as the favourites to win.

Clarke believes a lot will depend on Nathan Lyon on the final day.

England’s former Ashes hero and controversial star Kevin Pietersen was rooting for skipper Joe Root to get his side through over the line.

Ex-England wicket-keeper Matt Prior meanwhile was on the fence but believed England have a decent chance.

Ian Bell left no doubt as to whom he was backing after England’s fightback.

South Africa’s star batsman AB De Villiers spoke for all neutrals when he said the following.

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Steve Smith's nightmare and the other talking points as Adelaide Ashes Test heads for frantic finale

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Smith struggled with DRS after opting not to enforce the follow-on.

England finally ‘arrived’ at the Ashes in the words of former skipper Michael Vaughan after an enthralling day four at the Adelaide Oval.

After Australia had dominated the opening three days in the second Test, England came roaring back into the match to give themselves a chance of a miraculous victory on the final day.

The visitors were at 176-4 at the close of stumps, needing 178 runs more to win with skipper Joe Root still batting at the crease.

Here, we look at the key talking points from day four.

JAMES ANDERSON’S MAIDEN FIVE-WICKET HAUL DOWN UNDER JOLTS AUSTRALIA

England’s pace spearhead has got plenty of stick from Australian supporters over the years for his relative ineffectiveness Down Under.

The 500-wicket man is on his fourth Ashes tour of Australia but he had never taken a five-wicket haul in 14 Tests prior to Adelaide.

The 35-year-old had removed Cameron Bancroft and Usman Khawaja in a terrific display of swing bowling under the lights on Monday. He was equally effective in the warm sunshine of Tuesday morning as he sent both Peter Handscomb and Nathan Lyon packing. He returned to dismiss Mitchell Starc to complete his maiden five-wicket haul in Australia.

Anderson’s 5-43 was the catalyst for England’s remarkable fight-back after they had seemed downed and out in the first three days.

It was Anderson's first five-wicket haul in 30 innings in Australia.

It was Anderson’s first five-wicket haul in 30 innings in Australia.

DRS LEAVES PLAYERS AND PUNDITS BAFFLED

The Decision Review System (DRS) was at the centre of attention on day four at Adelaide as both players and pundits were left baffled by some of the calls.

The first controversial moment arrived when Alastair Cook was adjudged not out by the umpire after being struck on the pads by a full Nathan Lyon delivery. The ball seemed to be sliding down the leg-side but Steve Smith opted for a review. However, Hawkeye showed that the ball turned just enough after bouncing to be on course to hit the stumps and the decision was overturned.

Root then had a lucky reprieve when batting after he left a Lyon delivery alone only for it to turn in sharply and wrap him on the pads in front of the stumps. The umpire’s finger was raised quickly but DRS showed that the ball would bounce over the stumps.

Smith then had two reviews wasted in the space of three balls to compound his DRS misery. He believed the England captain had inside-edge a Pat Cummins delivery to Tim Paine but DRS showed no contact with the bat.

The Australian skipper then thought he had his man after Josh Hazlewood trapped Dawid Malan on the pads after the ball stayed low. Hawkeye however showed that the ball would bounce over the stumps to leave the Aussies stunned and bewildered on the field.

Smith and Hazlewoo cannot believe it as Malan is reprieved by the DRS.

Smith and Hazlewoo cannot believe it as Malan is reprieved by the DRS.

JOE ROOT SHOWS HIS CLASS TO LEAVE ENGLAND DREAMING OF VICTORY

England’s leader had been much chastised for his decision to bowl first on the Adelaide track after he had won the toss. It all seemed to be going wrong for England as Australia put on a big first-innings total before bowling England out to take a 215-run lead.

The 26-year-old had failed to convert his starts in the opening Test at Brisbane and had failed in the first innings at Adelaide. It is fair to say the pressure on Root’s shoulders was huge as England stared down the barrel at another defeat.

On Tuesday, he showed why he considered in the same breath as Steve Smith as he brought up his 34th Test fifty. He walked into bat after openers Cook and Mark Stoneman felt in quick succession to leave England rocking at 54-2. He steadied the ship in the company of James Vince first and Dawid Malan later. Going into the final day, England’s hopes will rest on Root going big and a 14th Test ton from him might just be what England need on the final day to cap off a dream victory.

Root's unbeaten 67 has given England hopes for a victory.

Root’s unbeaten 67 has given England hopes for a victory.

STEVE SMITH’S FAILURE TO IMPOSE FOLLOW-ON COMES BACK TO BITE AUSTRALIA

If the England skipper had come in for some criticisms following his decision to bowl first, his opposite counterpart will be left wondering if he made the right call in not enforcing the follow-on.

England had seemed well and truly out of the game after conceding a huge 215-run lead in the first innings but Smith chose to bat again in the hopes of getting some quick runs on the board on Monday.

Smith would have thought Australia would have batted long enough to declare before lights came on at the Adelaide Oval on Tuesday but his gambit has allowed the tourists to creep in through the back door.

His batsmen were rattled by England’s pacers to be bowled out for just 138 runs and Root’s innings has now put them well within reach of a famous victory come Wednesday.

If Australia go on to lose from here, Smith’s decision could be giving him sleepless nights for some time to come.

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