Rashid Khan is eager to justify his status as the number one draft pick in the Hundred when he makes his debut in English cricket’s new 100 balls per side competition on Saturday.
A key figure in the remarkable rise of Afghanistan from cricket outpost to Test nation, the 22-year-old leg-spinner has long been regarded as the leading current bowler in Twenty20 cricket. Now he finds himself in an even shorter format that will see him turning out for the Nottingham-based Trent Rockets when they begin their Hundred campaign at home to the Southern Brave.
And having impressed against the world’s best in the high-profile Indian Premier League, among other T20 tournaments, his Hundred price tag of £100,000 (138,000 dollars) is unlikely to affect Khan. “Definitely it is a huge, proud moment for me and my country, to be someone from Afghanistan and be the first pick in this competition,” he said. “I’m so lucky to be someone picked in this competition for the first time and I think it’s all about what I have done in the last five-and-a-half years that made it possible,” added Khan, who has taken 466 wickets in all T20 cricket.
“I’m looking forward to proving that. I just need to keep it simple for myself, bring my skills, enjoy the game, keep smiling and keep doing well for the team.” Khan has been getting acclimatised again to English conditions ahead of the Hundred by playing for former club Sussex in two of the south coast county’s T20 Blast matches after taking a month off following the finish of the Pakistan Super League in June. “I did 10 days of quarantine in London, which was hard, you know 10 days being locked in a room, so to get out of there, have a bit of practice and a couple of games, it’s a good preparation for me.”
– ‘Fantastic asset’ –
England Test captain Joe Root, who will be a Rockets team-mate of Khan, said: “I’d much rather have him on my side than against me, that is for sure. “You look at his record in short-format cricket, wherever he’s gone he’s been wonderful. He’s a fantastic asset and clearly one of the shining lights in white-ball cricket, especially the shorter format, so this is really tailor-made for him.” There are no traditional six-ball overs in the Hundred, with bowlers allowed to send down five or 10 balls in a row. Khan cannot wait for his first 10-ball spell. “I’m super excited about that, to be bowling 10 balls in a row, it gives you kind of an opportunity to take 10 wickets straightaway and three hat-tricks,” he said.
Figures released by the England and Wales Cricket Board said a peak broadcast audience of close to 2.5 million watched the first men’s match of The Hundred between the Oval Invincibles and Manchester Originals on Thursday, which was shown by both the free-to-air BBC and satellite station Sky. The same teams had launched the women’s tournament on Wednesday, with that fixture attracting a peak audience of 1.95 million.