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Need to play top oppositions more often: Rashid Khan

27 Sep 2019 CricBuzz

Rashid Khan, Afghanistan's captain across all formats of the game, believes that his team will only get better with more exposure, especially against top Test-playing nations. The visitors ended their short but successful tour of Bangladesh on a sombre note after rain washed out the final of the tri-series, involving the visitors and hosts Bangladesh. Afghanistan had earlier stunned the hosts in the one-off Test, thereby securing their first-ever Test win against a full-fledged Test-playing nation, despite featuring in only their third Test.

The 21-year-old was speaking to the media at the conclusion of the Twenty20 tri-nation series on Wednesday (September 24) and spelt out his team's plans going ahead in the season even as he regretted the absence of a reserve day in the final. "We were discussing this topic in the dressing room, how good it would be if there was a reserve day for the final. It is disappointing for a player to get the final rained off," Rashid said.

"We have our domestic T20 competition, starting from October 7. From November 5, we have the West Indies series, so there's a lot of cricket coming up."

Afghanistan have always been a competitive team in the white-ball format of the game, but it has also been a remarkable rise in the red-ball format of the game for a team who made a rather dismal Test debut - losing by an innings and 262 runs against India in Bengaluru in 2018. Since then though, Afghanistan have taken rapid strides, beating fellow Test debutants Ireland and then stunning Bangladesh. Rashid though believes that his team needs to play top teams more often if they are to improve their game.

"We were always on track. Our performance at the World Cup was amazing. We made the games but couldn't finish it up. We lost five games in the last five or ten overs. We had the momentum and form in batting and bowling, but we couldn't finish well. It comes with more experience. We are new in this arena. The more we play, the better we will be," Rashid said.

"We have played only twice against Australia, New Zealand and England in the last five years. We would have known their strengths and weaknesses. It should be looked into. The best example is Bangladesh. They played a lot against South Africa and ended up having the best result against them in the World Cup. If we want to be a good side, we should play more against the top sides. Not one match in four years. These teams have four fast bowlers who bowl 140-plus. We play against Scotland and Ireland, and they hardly have a 140-plus bowler," the captain lamented.

Enthused by the team's popularity, Rashid believes that both Bangladesh and Afghanistan need to start playing more often and in longer series. "People back home want us to play more against Bangladesh. Here also people want to play against Afghanistan. We should have longer series, like have the main focus on 50 overs and Test matches. Cricket boards should think about it. There should be a three-match Test series. There's more room to learn and have different experiences. More 50 overs and Tests would be better for both nations," he said.

On the individual front, Rashid has come a long way with the ball as well. Always known for his frugal economy and wicket-taking in the white-ball format of the game, the 21-year-old has grown leaps and bounds in Test cricket and played a starring role in the win against Bangladesh, claiming his first 10-wicket haul (5 for 55 and 6 for 49). "I never brought any difference in my bowling in any format. I try to do what I am capable of. I don't want to bring any changes to my bowling. If I bring a bit of change, I think it will affect my bowling. I always had one thing in mind in the Test match, that there will be a time when I won't get a wicket for 25 overs. There will be a time when I get three wickets in one over. Rather than putting extra pressure on myself, I should be mentally ready for this sort of thing," he said.

Explaining the thought process further, Rashid mentioned that he spoke with some of the legendary spinners of the game and analyzed his own shortcomings, which helped him gain more focus, especially in Test cricket. "I asked Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne, superstars of Test cricket, what should my mindset be in a Test match. They both told me that I shouldn't change myself, and be cool and calm in every situation. Just focus on bowling in the right line and length, rather than bring down my speed. They said that the quicker you bowl, it deceives the batsmen," Rashid concluded.

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