T20 leagues help players cope: Rashid

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Stints in Twenty20 leagues across the world have helped most Afghanistan players to cope with the lack of international cricket, star spinner Rashid Khan said.

Nearly two dozen players have shifted their base to the United Arab Emirates since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last year to avoid travel issues.

Several sponsors have left and Afghanistan’s status as a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) was in doubt at one stage because of the Taliban rulers’ stance against women’s cricket.

With only sporadic international cricket in the Future Tours Programme (FTP) calendar for them, franchise cricket has come as a blessing for the likes of Rashid and Mohammad Nabi, who have emerged as sought-after names in those leagues.

“We don’t play a lot of longer format cricket,” Rashid told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s Asia Cup contest against Bangladesh in Sharjah.

“It is about the FTP, and not in the players’ hands. We want to play a lot of international cricket, so that our youngsters can understand the environment to improve their skills. Since we play a lot of international leagues, it gives us the opportunity to learn from the best players.

“We bring that experience to the international team. We share that with the rest of the team.”

It showed in their performance as Afghanistan humbled former champions Sri Lanka by eight wickets in the tournament opener on Saturday.

International cricket remained priority for the players despite the lure of Twenty20 leagues, said Rashid.

“If there’s international duty, you have to be present. It is always first priority. We are hopeful of playing more international games in the coming years.”

 (Reuters)