Really surprised, really happy - Rashid
The 18-year-old Afghanistan legspinner was thrilled after his selection at the IPL auction, where Sunrisers Hyderabad bought him for INR 4 crore (USD 595,000 approx)
Rashid Khan was at opposite ends of the cricketing spectrum - and then somewhere in-between - as the IPL auction played out this morning. Physically, he was in Harare with not much to do on a rest day between ODIs against Zimbabwe. Mentally, he was in Bangalore: he was one of the five Afghanistan players listed in the IPL 2017 auction and he had doubts about whether he would attract any bids. Emotionally, he was at home in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, where he last saw his parents and six brothers three months ago, and where all eyes were on India.
"My parents woke up early to watch the auction. I was still sleeping when they called me and told me to get up and watch because I was coming up," Rashid told ESPNcricinfo. "So I started to also watch it from here in Zimbabwe and I was really surprised, really happy and really excited when I saw what was happening. I couldn't believe it actually, it happened very quickly."
After an eager back-and-forth between Mumbai Indians and defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad, Rashid was bought for INR 4 crore (USD 595,000 approx) by Sunrisers, who also acquired his team-mate Mohammad Nabi. The pair will join Kane Williamson, David Warner and Mustafizur Rahman, among others, in the franchise squad and for Rashid, it's undoubtedly the biggest deal of his young cricketing career. He is only 18 and has been playing international cricket for less than 18 months and has already landed one of the most lucrative contracts going around.
Rashid decided to enter the IPL auction on the advice of his agency, Insignia Sports, who also brokered his participation in the 2016-17 Bangladesh Premier League last year. He played for Comilla Victorians, in a squad that also included Jason Holder, Marlon Samuels, Ahmed Shehzad and Nuwan Kulasekara, and finished 11th on the overall wicket-takers' list with 13 scalps at 14.92.
He hoped the BPL performance and his recent returns at the Desert T20 Challenge - where he took nine wickets in the tournament at an average of 6.55 - would tempt an IPL team into buying him, despite a wealth of spin talent in India which saw even the world's top-ranked T20 bowler, Imran Tahir, go unsold.
"What makes me different is that I am a bit quicker for a legspinner," Rashid said. "That is something that just came to me naturally, not something that I copied from anyone."
Apart from his speed, Rashid also relishes big occasions. At the Asia Cup last year, he was Afghanistan's highest wicket-taker and the second-highest wicket-taker for his team at the World T20 after Nabi. His performances have been so standout he has squeezed long-term frontliner Samiullah Shenwari out of the starting XI.
Rashid admitted he enjoys tough situations. "I love pressure. Mentally, I get myself ready for pressure. That's how I like to play," he said. "Maybe it's because I grew up playing with my brothers all the time and five of them are older than me but I also think it's the experience of playing a lot of cricket in a short space of time."
Since October 2015, Rashid has played in six ODI series and six T20 series, as Afghanistan seek to make themselves more visible on the global stage. Rashid and Nabi's IPL signings will aid that cause immeasurably.
Having been chosen over some Bangladesh and Sri Lanka stars, the pair's selection is the biggest indication of the strides Afghanistan are making, and Rashid hopes it does not stop here.
"Our main target is to play Test cricket and all the guys are working very hard to get there," he said. "If we can get there, you can't imagine how good it would feel."
For now, he is happy to concentrate on the shortest format. "In short formats, the more you enjoy it, the better you will do, and I am enjoying it a lot."
Understandably, Rashid has not made any plans for his new income just yet. He will only see his family after the tournament - Afghanistan travel from Zimbabwe to Greater Noida in Delhi for their series against Ireland and then it will be time for the IPL - and he expects there will be a clamour in his hometown to share in his glory. "Whenever I go home they have a celebration for me so I'm sure this time, they will do it as well."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent