‘You can’t do anything about it’: Rashid Khan on Australia’s refusal to play bilateral series with Afghanistan | Cricket News – The Times of India

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NEW DELHI: Star leg-spinner Rashid Khan expressed his frustration and disappointment over Cricket Australia‘s decision to refuse bilateral cricket with the Afghanistan men’s team.
Despite trying to comprehend the reasoning behind Australia’s stance, Rashid believes that this refusal only serves to deny happiness to the Afghan people.
Cricket Australia’s cancellation of an ODI series in 2023 and their recent refusal to play a T20 series in the UAE due to concerns over the treatment of women in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan have left Rashid and his compatriots perplexed.
However, Afghan players, including Rashid himself, continue to be embraced in tournaments like the Big Bash League, highlighting a stark contrast in how they are welcomed in certain cricketing contexts despite the political and social complexities surrounding Afghanistan’s situation.
“I want, all the players want, to play cricket because that is the only source of happiness for people back home in Afghanistan and if you take that away, there is nothing that people could celebrate or enjoy,” Rashid told PTI during an exclusive interview on Monday.
In 2023, Rashid Khan had contemplated withdrawing from the Big Bash League in protest against Australia’s decision to abstain from playing bilateral cricket with Afghanistan. Despite having numerous Australian friends, Rashid revealed that he hadn’t directly discussed the matter with any of them.
“Well, I have never discussed it with anybody (Australian cricketers) as I haven’t had that opportunity to discuss all those things with them, something which is not in your hands or you have no control over, you can’t do anything about it.
“It’s not a cricketing reason or matter that you think about it, it is about two governments and as a player you can’t do anything about it. What we can do is whenever we get an opportunity to play cricket, we go with full pride while representing our country.”
With over 400 T20 games under his belt and being widely regarded as the most sought-after freelancer in the T20 cricket universe, Rashid acknowledges feeling privileged to serve as the face of Afghanistan cricket.
“Before 2017, we never thought about playing the IPL. It was hard (far-fetched) thought for us to even think of playing in the biggest T20 league in the world.
“The hardest part is to get into the system and when I (first) got the opportunity, I knew okay, I got that opportunity now I have to do the best where it helps me promote my cricket and also help my country where youngsters can get inspired to get into cricket more and more,” the eloquent Pathan said.
In addition to Rashid’s presence in the IPL, Noor Ahmed and Azmatullah Omrzai are also showcasing their talents for the Gujarat Titans in the ongoing tournament. Meanwhile, Mohammed Nabi is making his mark with the Mumbai Indians, and Rahmanullah Gurbaz has found a place in the squad of the Kolkata Knight Riders.
“Back in 2017, it was only me and (Mohd) Nabi, who were there and now we have 7-8 players who are with different franchises, and it is so good to see them not just being a part of the team but also performing,” he said.
“At the end of the day, it is helping Afghanistan cricket and youngsters back home. So I am quite happy, and blessed to be one of those who brought about this change in mindset of people about cricket in Afghanistan.”

‘Difficult to hit rhythm immediately after surgery’

Rashid faced a significant setback last year when he underwent a major back surgery, which unfortunately sidelined him from playing in the India series in January.
It was undoubtedly a challenging period for him, both physically and mentally. However, Rashid has persevered through the difficult times, and now he feels that he is back in rhythm.
“For me, those three to four months were hard but I tried to make sure that I am relaxed and when I get back on the field, I am fully ready and prepared for it,” the champion spinner said.
“The main focus for the first four months was on getting back on track, it is hard when you are not playing but these are things which are attached to your career, and it is important as a player that you take (accept) that process, you make sure that you look after yourself.
“I made sure that I spent time with my family and looked after my body.”

‘Missing Shami but happy with GT bowling unit’

The Gujarat Titans have experienced a mixed journey in the IPL season so far, with three wins and three defeats. The absence of a game-changer like Mohammed Shami has been keenly felt by the team, impacting their performance significantly.
Despite this, Rashid Khan has shown his support for the bowling unit, standing by their efforts on the field.
“Shami played a main role for us in last two seasons, both with new ball and old ball, and the way he has delivered for the team actually made mine and others’ jobs easier, especially in the middle overs,” he had no hesitation in admitting.
“We have started the season with a positive mindset and everyone is taking responsibility and delivering best for the team but sometimes results don’t go your way but we are quite happy with the bowling unit.
“T20 is all about making the right decisions at the right time. Spencer Johnson, Darshan Nalkande, Azmat, Umesh have all delivered and most importantly, Mohit (Sharma) bhai as well.”
(With PTI inputs)

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