Cricket network logo



Rashid: Strikers like 'family'

01 February 2020

Rashid Khan has made a huge impact in his first three seasons with the Adelaide Strikers

Adelaide Strikers Afghan superstar Rashid Khan has vowed to stay loyal to the club despite considerable interest from rivals.

As the top-ranked men's bowler in the world of T20 cricket and one of the most sought-after signings by white-ball franchises across the globe, it's hardly surprising that Rashid Khan is hot property among rival KFC Big Bash League clubs.

But despite being out of contract at the end of BBL|09, and being approached by at least two other Australia franchises during the current summer, Rashid's heart remains staunchly in Adelaide with his brothers in blue.

Where the 21-year-old pledges to continue playing for the foreseeable future.

"I'm quite happy playing for Adelaide, and I'll be playing here as long they need me and they want me," he says, beaming.

"I've been approached by a few teams this year, but I would love to play for Adelaide as long as they will have me.

"Adelaide is one of my favourite grounds, and playing seven (regular season) games a year here for the Adelaide Strikers with the support you get from the crowd, it's wonderful."

It's difficult to imagine a scenario where Rashid was neither wanted nor needed.

In the three years since he first donned Strikers colours as a teenager, no player has taken more BBL wickets than his 55 from 39 matches at an average of just 17.55 apiece.

Among others to have claimed more than 15 wickets across those three BBL campaigns, no other bowler can beat Rashid's economy rate of 106.28 per 100 balls bowled, although his Afghanistan teammate and Brisbane Heat spin rival Mujeeb Ur Rahman's 15 scalps have cost just 101.42.

It's why the Afghan pair head the ICC's worldwide rankings for best T20 bowlers, and helps explain why Rashid remains so integral to Adelaide's hopes of reclaiming the BBL title they lifted in the leg spinner's maiden season in 2017-18.

But there are other, more compelling reasons why the hugely popular and irrepressibly energetic spinner wants to remain a part of the Strikers' playing group into the future.

One of those is his deep affinity for Adelaide Oval, where this season he experienced two of his most treasured individual memories – one with bat, another with ball – against the two Sydney teams the Strikers must now defeat (along with Melbourne Stars) if they are to lift the BBL|09 crown.

The other is the strong sense of family that Rashid – as one of 11 children, most of whom sought refuge in neighbouring Pakistan as Afghanistan underwent one of its regular bouts of political and social upheaval – cherishes as dearly as he celebrates cricket success.

"It's more than a family," Rashid told cricket.com.au, about his sense of belonging to the Strikers' fraternity built under coach Jason Gillespie.

"I've met some of the best people, I feel very relaxed and feel like I'm at home.

"Everyone is so nice and so good to me – the players, the coaching staff, the fans.

"It has been incredible so far.

"I absolutely love it, and the best thing is we have almost the same team.

"We don't have too many changes from the last three years, and it's all about the combination.

"Once you have that combination, and you have that team environment which is the same from the last few years, that gives the team to best opportunity to go ahead and win games."

Since Rashid joined their ranks, the Strikers have won 22 of the 39 matches in which the star leg-spinner has taken part.

Across all BBL matches played during that three-year window, Adelaide's winning ratio of 57.50 per cent (23 wins from 40 games) is the best in the competition, and significantly superior to the next-best performed outfit (Sydney Sixers at 53.85 per cent).

But that one match Rashid missed was perhaps the most significant of his Strikers tenure, when they walloped Hobart Hurricanes in the grand final of BBL|07 albeit without their premier bowler who was in the UAE awaiting Afghanistan's T20 and ODI series against Zimbabwe starting later that week.

To have played the entire BBL season, finish as equal-top wicket-taker (alongside Melbourne Renegades' Dwayne Bravo) but to miss the trophy decider would likely haunt a less team-oriented player.

Rashid Khan congratulates Strikers on BBL|07 title

But Rashid recalls that day, hunched over his phone in Dubai on a Sunday morning while living every delivery that led the Strikers to victory, as a treasured memory.

"It was the morning around 10am there, and I was watching the game on my mobile and cheering for my team," he recalled.

"The moment we won it was the best feeling.

"I congratulated my teammates in the WhatsApp group, and I was feeling so happy that Jake (Weatherald) made a hundred, and then Liam O'Connor, Rashid's replacement leg spinner) bowled really well so I was so happy for him.

"When the game is a 200-plus score and he's bowling four overs for 27, he bowled really well and the rest of the team was amazing.

"When you are part of a team, it doesn't matter if you're with them or not.

"They knew my best wishes and prayers were with them, and I was watching and cheering for them from back in Dubai.

"I definitely felt like I was there at the match and playing for the team."

This summer, however, the Strikers have Rashid's services for the entirety of their campaign.

Rashid and Salt take on the Adelaide Oval RoofClimb

His ongoing availability, due to the paucity of international cricket that Afghanistan currently plays despite being granted Test status by the ICC, was a "massive carrot" in securing him for another season at Adelaide according to Gillespie.

It was also a huge win for Strikers fans, who have adopted the self-effacing spinner as a perennial favourite, a gratitude that's reciprocated by Rashid who is routinely to last player to leave the playing arena on match days at Adelaide Oval.

During night fixtures, as the main floodlights dim and the grandstands empty out, he can often be seen boundary-side chatting to families and small groups of supporters, posing for endless selfies and enjoying the camaraderie of his home away from home.

The Adelaide Oval faithful have already witnessed a couple of remarkable cameos from the leg-spinner this season.

Highlights that Rashid himself can't revisit without flashing the widest of smiles, even though both came against the backdrop of defeat for his team.

The first was his last-gasp batting effort when the Strikers hosted the Thunder on New Year's Eve, and looked set to finish well adrift of their 169-run target until the number eight batter smashed 40 from 18 balls to almost steal an astonishing win.

Rashid Khan's New Year's eve cameo

"I won't forget that innings," Rashid said through a broad grin. "New Year's Eve, having 45-50,000 people watching in the ground and helping my team get out of a tough situation and almost win the game.

"It was quite unlucky not to get five off two balls (to claim victory), I had done that before but that's how this game is.

"Sometimes you try your best but can't finish it with a win.

"But I loved that night, and I think that night is one that I won't forget for a long, long time."

The other memorabilia moment was his hat-trick against the Sixers, who narrowly squeezed out the Strikers from second place on the BBL ladder after the regular season.

Rashid Khan's incredible hat-trick

Rashid claimed the wickets of England batter James Vince (caught behind) and then Jack Edwards (lbw) from consecutive deliveries, but had to wait for his next over before he could send down the potential hat-trick ball to either incumbent batter Jordan Silk or new arrival, Tom Curran.

"It was exactly how I planned, the ball for the hat-trick," he said.

"I had a good amount of time between the overs to think about where to pitch the ball.

"At first, the most important thing in my mind was, 'who will be the batsman on strike - will it be Silk who has already played me, or will it be the new batsmen facing me?'

"But then, when I was coming into bowl, I was thinking it doesn't matter who is facing me, I just need to bowl the wrong-one (with) perfect length and perfect line.

"I thought if I bowled it there, there was enough for me in the pitch to get me the wicket.

"So I just started with the line that I thought would get a dismissal … and then I thought 'just go for it'.

"Getting a hat-trick as a spinner here in Australia, especially in T20s during the middle-order, it's the toughest job to do.

"I love my hat-trick, and the last ball of the hat-trick was a dream ball for me."