LONDON (Agencies): Groomed on dusty pitches as a refugee, record-breaking Rashid Khan will face his toughest examination yet at the World Cup, with former coaches confident the Afghan can “dismantle” top batting line-ups. The world’s top-rated Twenty20 bowler from the war-torn nation last year made history as the fastest to reach 100 one-day international wickets.
Aged just 20, and after a remarkable cricket upbringing shaped by years of conflict and displacement, Khan will on Saturday make his World Cup debut against defending champions Australia. “I am sure he will dismantle the best in the World Cup,” said his former school coach Ali Hoti of his former charge, who is also third in the International Cricket Council ODI rankings.
“He is the bowler to watch in the event.” Afghanistan cricket is a rare source of pride in the conflict-riven country, where murals of Khan and teammates adorn the maze of concrete blast walls criss-crossing the capital Kabul. Born in the restive Nangarhar province in 1998, Khan’s family joined the waves of refugees flooding across the Pakistani border, fleeing the bloody battles that followed the US invasion in 2001 and the war with the Taliban. It was in Pakistan’s bustling frontier city of Peshawar that Khan began playing cricket and he grew up to idolise fellow Pashtun slugger and great Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi. Coaches in the area took notice of the raw talent of the developing athlete, who had plenty of skill but was lacking focus.