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September 22, 2020
Cricket Sports

Afghan poster boy buckling under weight of expectation

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Rashid Khan

IMAGE: Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan reacts during the World Cup match against Bangladesh after a misfield. Photograph: John Sibley/Reuters

No other spinner headed into the World Cup with a burden of expectation heavier than the one on Rashid Khan’s shoulders. But seven matches into the tournament and the poster boy of Afghan cricket is buckling under the weight.

His reputation, earned largely in franchise cricket, preceded him in England but success has eluded him in a tournament he was supposed to set alight.


England is not exactly a spinner’s paradise though.

South African old warhorse Imran Tahir and Bangladesh talisman Shakib Al Hasan are the only two spinners among the tournament’s top 10 bowlers.

Right-arm quick Gulbadin Naib is the highest placed Afghan with nine wickets from seven matches — all of which his team have lost to be rooted to the bottom of the standings.

With just four wickets from seven outings, Rashid, currently the top ranked Twenty20 bowler, is not even the best spinner in his team. Mohammad Nabi has seven from seven and Mujeeb Ur Rahman — another off-spinner — has five from five.

Batsmen initially treated Rashid with respect before Eoin Morgan destroyed him in Manchester, where the leg-spinner’s 9-0-110-0 went down as the worst figures in World Cup history.

No bowler in the tournament has been hit for more sixes than the dozen he has conceded so far.

“He is not bowling (at the level) where I want him,” captain Naib, who defended Rashid after the Manchester mauling saying it was a one-off day, said after Monday’s loss to Bangladesh.

“But he is trying hard, he is giving his 100 percent.”

The 20-year-old endured another wicketless day at the Hampshire Bowl on Monday, even as Mujeeb got three while Shakib returned the tournament’s best figures of 5-29 on the same slow track.

The closest he came to tasting success was when he trapped Shakib leg before. The batsman instantly reviewed it and eventually got the decision overturned with ball-tracker suggesting the delivery would have just sailed over the stumps. His frustration was evident too as Rashid remonstrated with teammates who put up another shabby fielding display marked by spilled catches, misfields and overthrows.

Naib, who reckoned his team bled extra 30-40 runs on field, said he could sympathise with Rashid.

“I’m also disappointed with our fielding like him. There was an occasion when he was very angry with a fielder,” Naib added.

“If we do not field well, it upsets the bowlers. Rashid is one of those players who is trying to do well in all three departments. But, again, we gave away extra runs, and naturally he was very upset.

“I told him ‘relax and focus on your bowling’. He missed momentum because of our poor fielding.”

Their next two assignments — against former champions Pakistan and West Indies  — are Rashid’s final hopes to salvage some of his reputation in his maiden 50-overs World Cup appearance.

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