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IPL 2018: Zahir Khan can’t wait to train with Shane Warne at Rajasthan Royals

Zahir Khan, who played for Afghanistan in the U-19 Cricket World Cup, is excited to work with Rajasthan Royals mentor Shane Warne in the 2018 Indian Premier League (IPL).

cricket Updated: Feb 16, 2018 12:07 IST
Shalini Gupta
Shalini Gupta
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Zahir Khan,IPL 2018,Shane Warne
Zahir Khan will play for Rajasthan Royals in the upcoming season of the Indian Premier League (IPL).(Getty Images)

Afghanistan’s teenaged chinaman bowler Zahir Khan Pakteen still can’t believe his luck. The 19-year-old not only got to play in the under-19 World Cup in New Zealand (Jan-Feb), but bagged an Indian Premier League (IPL) contract. The 2008 champions Rajasthan Royals bought him for Rs 60 lakh in the auction held on January 27-28.

News that Australian spin legend Shane Warne will return as mentor to Rajasthan Royals, the club he captained to title, has added to the Afghan spinner’s joy.

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Zahir made his Afghanistan debut against Papua New Guinea in the Inter-continental Cup in November 2015. Having played in the Shpageeza Cricket League (organised in Afghanistan) and Bangladesh Premier League, Zahir is keen to make a mark in IPL. He believes the IPL break could change his life, and importantly, help repay the money he owes his brothers, who backed his cricket dream.

Excerpts

Rashid Khan and Mohammed Nabi have made a mark in the IPL. How did you feel when Royals bought you?

Rashid and Nabi (both Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2017) made an incredible impact in the IPL. It is the most popular, successful T20 league in the world. I didn’t expect any franchise to buy someone like me, who has just played for the U-19 Afghanistan team. I was in New Zealand when the auction took place. I couldn’t believe, it’s a big deal to get an IPL contract. I was thrilled to know Mumbai Indians even bid for me.

Shane Warne will be RR mentor. How do you see that?

Young spinners aspire to become Shane Warne or Muttiah Muralitharan. I was in awe of Warne when I started playing. I would watch his bowling videos on the internet and how he plotted dismissals. It would be great to have him during IPL and learn from him. IPL will give me a great opportunity to understand modern cricket from a legendary cricketer like Warne.

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Four Afghan cricketers will play in the IPL this time. How will it help Afghanistan cricket? Rashid and Nabi must have had an influence on you regarding IPL?

There are challenging conditions in our country. Cricket brings smile not only on the players’ face, but also gives a reason to be happy for those who follow the game. Earlier, we would follow India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka cricketers, but now we have our own players as icons. Rashid in particular has been a great ambassador of the game. His positive feedback and reassurance about IPL made me keener to become a part of it.

How has your family reacted? Will they come to India to watch your matches?

I lost my father when I was two. My four brothers, two sisters and mother raised me in Paktika, where cricket is not popular. I started playing against their wishes, but when I excelled they supported me. I now live in Kabul and not with them. I would like to repay them with the money I earn from IPL. My brothers will be in India to watch some matches. They run electronics shops in Paktika. I want them to see Rajasthan and Mumbai. We all love Bollywood movies, so I hope to meet some stars too.

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You played in the U-19 World Cup and have an IPL contract. How do see things going ahead?

Everyone dreams of playing for the nation. I was thrilled we reached the U-19 World Cup semifinals, made our presence felt. I want to deliver the goods in IPL. Afghanistan is on the cusp of creating history by playing the first Test (vs India in Bangalore in June). I hope I can be part of the national team for the historic Test, that too against Virat Kohli-led India. Virat is the most popular, most watched cricketer in Afghanistan.

First Published: Feb 16, 2018 08:51 IST