Rashid Khan is ready to make Afghanistan proud in The Hundred with the number one pick in the draft set to play his first match of the tournament on Saturday.
Widely regarded as the best current bowler in Twenty20 cricket, Khan is the star overseas attraction in the first edition of the 100-ball competition and begins his campaign when his Trent Rockets side host Southern Brave.
Khan is an Indian Premier League veteran and has a wealth of franchise league experience despite his young age, so external pressure due to his price tag of £100,000 is not likely to faze the leg-spinner.
“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,” the 22-year-old 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.
“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.”
While overs may be consigned to history in one of many new rules for The Hundred, and bowlers can bowl five or 10-ball spells, Khan is not taking the inaugural tournament lightly.
Instead, he stepped up preparation for the eight-team format by signing a short deal with old club Sussex to feature in two Vitality Blast fixtures following a month off after the Pakistan Super League concluded in June.
Khan added: “It has been good preparation for me before The Hundred. To get used to the weather, conditions and get my muscles going because I had a bit of long break after the PSL.
“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.”
A T20 match against Kent on Sunday saw the Afghanistan captain line up alongside England bowler Jofra Archer, who is working his way back from surgery on his elbow after a difficult winter.
If Archer is declared fit, the duo will be rivals this weekend when Khan’s Rockets face Southern Brave at Trent Bridge, and the leggie does not expect the talented quick to need long to hit top gear again.
“He had a good game that day and he bowled really well, looking back in his rhythm,” Khan said.
“I had a bit of discussion with him, he felt really good. It always takes a bit of time to build that kind of same energy to the game. It’s quite different than in the practice how you go but I think he’s a champion bowler and definitely won’t take long.”
Given recent matches at Trent Bridge, both Archer and Khan could be forgiven for a sense of trepidation about playing there in a format which urges batters to tee off from ball one.
But the bowler, who made his international debut at 17, insisted: “I think if you have those things in the mind that the wicket is flat, the boundary short, it doesn’t help.
“What helps you is you bring your own skills and your own experience with the game.
“It will definitely be a challenge that will need more consistency in how you bowl and that will be tested.
“But as long as I’m hitting the right area and just backing up my skills, my talent, I think I can deliver for the team and that’s the kind of mentality I will go with.”
A traditional over of six balls is hard enough to face when Khan is in full flow, and it is no surprise the prospect of going through for 10 in a row excites a man with 466 scalps in T20 cricket.
He said with a smile: “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.
“Everyone is super excited and it looks to me a massive competition. Not only here in England, everyone around the world is super excited about this to get started and to see the new rules and stuff.
“It will definitely take lots of attention and it will motivate lots of youngsters as well to this game, and that’s what the main reason behind this game is.”