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News

Rashid Khan says 'national duty the first priority' after Lahore Qalandars bid to fly him in for final

The Afghanistan legspinner is in the middle of a white-ball series in Bangladesh

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
26-Feb-2022
Rashid Khan finished with 2 for 33 from his four overs, Lahore Qalandars vs Multan Sultans, PSL 2022, Lahore, February 11, 2022

Before leaving PSL 2022 for national duty, Rashid Khan took 13 wickets at an average of 17.30 and an economy rate of 6.25  •  PSL

Rashid Khan will be unavailable for the PSL final, despite Lahore Qalandars offering to fly him into Pakistan for Sunday's game, as he is in the middle of Afghanistan's white-ball tour of Bangladesh. Qalandars are due to play defending champions Multan Sultans at Gaddafi Stadium and had taken the opportunity provided by the PCB's tweaking of its Covid-19 rules to attempt the move.
Rashid, however, tweeted that it wouldn't be possible for him to play the PSL final "due to National Duty which is always a first priority."
The prospects of Rashid returning to the PSL at such a late stage were always going to be bleak. His participation in the final would have involved the assent of the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) as well as the cooperation of Bangladesh authorities: Rashid has a single-entry visa to Bangladesh and would have needed a change to that if he was to fly out to Pakistan and back.
Lahore's idea was to fly him in on a charter plane to connect him from one bubble in Bangladesh to the one created for the PSL. But that would have also needed airspace approvals across Bangladesh, India and Pakistan; the complicated geopolitics of the region would have presented yet another obstacle.
The fact that Lahore even thought about this idea is an illustration of Rashid's value. He was an essential part of their early league-stage run, forming part of the most lethal attack in the league. When he signed off and left on February 20, he'd taken 13 wickets in nine matches at an average of 17.30, while maintaining an economy rate of 6.25.
There was acknowledgement within the franchise that bringing Rashid back was a very long shot, but one that had been made possible by the PCB's tweak of their Covid-19 protocols. This had allowed Alex Hales and Paul Stirling to return from various destinations and be able to take part in Islamabad United's playoff games, despite only arriving in the country on the day of the game itself. Both had to clear Covid-19 tests on arrival but were kept apart from the rest of the playing squad, and were not allowed to share the dugout or dressing-room area and travelled to the ground in separate cars.
Rashid has taken two wickets at 42.00 in the first two ODIs against Bangladesh in Chattogram, with Afghanistan losing both games. The last ODI, on February 28, remains important for Afghanistan as it carries the chance to get ten points in the ODI Super League points table. The ODI series will be followed by two T20Is on March 3 and 5, in Dhaka.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent