Afghanistan's new captain outlines what his team need to do to become more consistent across formats and his favourite venues - the ones he would like to walk out on for the toss as the Test captain, while also saying more Associate nations in future World Cups would be welcome. Excerpts from an interview with Rashid Khan:
Were you surprised at getting the captaincy?
I wasn't quite surprised. I was already the vice-captain, which means you are the upcoming captain. Mentally, I was ready for it. Yes, it happened very quickly, but when it comes to the national team, when it comes to the country, you always have to be ready to lead. I'll try my best to lead, as well as possible.
What do Afghanistan need from you?
Lots of things need to be done. Being a leader, from here we have to take steps. We have seen the World Cup, we have seen the oppositions and what should be the proper preparation for them, and we have to be very strong mentally. We have to be fully fit for such competitions and we have to be well prepared. We need to achieve these things. We are not playing with Associate teams right now, we are playing with the Full Members, so we have to be well planned and prepared. The most important thing is fitness, we have to be very fit. These are the things we need to improve on in upcoming years to be a better side, a side that can beat any team. We have the talent, we have the skills. We just need to bring improvement in that.
What advice will you give to the younger Afghanistan players who are making their way into the national team?
The first thing is the fitness. You have to be fully fit when you come into the national side. You are representing your country. The other thing is you need to have worked on your skills, not that when you come to the national side you start working on it. Once you come to the national side, you have to work on the mental aspect (more). And being a youngster, you should always believe in yourself and work hard. Then you can achieve anything.
Keeping 2023 ODI World Cup as a goal what do Afghanistan need to put in place?
That is something that is a very big challenge for us. As I said, we have the skills and talent, but we need to improve. We need to know how to play against the big teams and what should be the proper preparation against them. As we saw, we were struggling in this World Cup. (But) I think the 2023 World Cup, it's a little bit far. The focus and target right now is the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia. We will show how we are better, and show how we can do better compared to the last World Cup. We just need to keep improving and bringing down the number of mistakes we have done in the past. In T20s specially, we have the ability and we have the best team (that we can have).
And for 2023 (World Cup) we should know that from hereon, there should be proper preparation for 50 overs. The more we play against the top teams, the better we will be. So looking forward to more games and series with the big teams.
"You have to be fully fit when you come into the national side. You are representing your country." Rashid Khan
You are also the captain for Test team. How do you look at that challenge?
Test cricket is real cricket and you will be really tested in all three departments. How you keep yourself calm, cool and wait for the right time to attack - that is something that will be tested. If we improve there, we can easily perform in the shorter version as well. We are focussing a lot on Test cricket, and we just need to play more Tests with the big teams. We have a good structure back home in four-day cricket, so we can improve from there. We are getting proper facilities and grounds and in the upcoming years you'll see lots of stars from Afghanistan cricket.
Afghanistan was once an Associate before moving up to become a Full Member. Do you reckon there should be more Associate teams in the 50-over World Cup after 2023 (the 10-team format has been fixed till the next edition)?
Definitely. That is something which makes the competition very interesting. All those teams come and if they start doing well against the big teams… we have seen in the past that Associate members come and they can beat the full members too, like Ireland have beaten England. That happens. The Associates can deliver that performance. They have been working hard and they're always wishing and wanting to play the World Cup. So definitely, I would love to see all the associate teams contributing in the World Cup. That gives them the best opportunity to see how much more hard work is required to improve their skills and their cricket. That will help their country's cricket as well.
Which venue would you like to walk out as Test captain?
Lord's. A Test match at Lord's is always a moment of huge pride and pleasure. To be representing your country itself, forget about being the captain… being in the playing XI at Lord's itself is more than a dream. I would love to play Test cricket at Lord's against England. The other is Adelaide. I would love to play a day-night Test in Adelaide. That is something that… I'm just dreaming about that!
I love to play in these two venues. Test cricket is for five days so you'll come again and again, play every day. That is something which I love. And these two grounds are my favourites.
Rashid Khan spoke with ESPNcricinfo at the Euro T20 Draft in London on July 19. Rashid is playing for Rotterdam Rhinos, where he is the icon player.