Interview of Cricket Fans (ICF) – 14

One of the things that I like the most about my next guest is the way he supports underrated teams and underrated players. He has been a massive Afghanistan Cricket fan and not just Cricket he also follows other sports like Football and Olympics. This is what makes him a true sports fan. My next guest for the interview is Karthik Raj whose twitter handle goes by the username – @kartcric

Thank you for your participation in this interview, share your early memories of watching Cricket. How long have you been following this game?

Infact, thank you for interviewing me. With respect to my early days watching cricket, it must have been around 2005-06. Although I don’t have clear memories or intricate details about the matches, I clearly remember being excited to watch matches on Neo Sports/Neo Cricket. Those days, we didn’t have a set-up box and it was just cable, so we had to rely on the one sports channel the cable operator used to show.

Have you been fortunate enough to watch an international cricket match live in a stadium?

I have actually not watched an international match but have been to three IPL matches at Chepauk and they have all been a pretty good experience. While the entertainment was contagious, the actual action on the field itself couldn’t be followed properly due to the energetic crowd.

You have been a massive fan of Afghanistan and the way they play their Cricket, tell us a bit about how you fell in love with that team.

This is something that I have talked about a lot on Twitter. So, initially, the underdog spirit in me meant that I was really rooting for an Afghanistan victory in the 2014 Asia Cup match against Bangladesh. But it was only after the 2015 World Cup that I really started taking interest in them after getting to know about their background, their struggles not being just related to poverty but of existence itself. When one looks at the safety concerns in Afghanistan and the number of people who lose their lives daily and then think about Afghanistan’s feats, it is quite remarkable.

Do you think Afghanistan, in the next 5 years, can reach where Bangladesh are at the present moment?

To be very honest, I would like to think Afghanistan are a better T20 side than Bangladesh. Bangladesh are better in Test cricket and even better in ODIs but I would say the gap would be considerably less if some of Afghanistan’s best players are selected for the national team. While just looking at a 5-year time-frame in isolation, yes, Afghanistan have a fairly good domestic talent pool who can propel the team to success. In 2008, Afghanistan were in Division 5 playing Jersey, Japan, Botswana and in 2017, they received Test Status. So, this 5-year-goal can be achieved too.

Do you think they have what it takes to beat a top side consistently?

At the moment, definitely no. Emerging nations need more matches against top teams and that is the only way they can improve. Afghanistan are no different. An aspect like rotation of strike might not be important against Zimbabwe and Ireland but it will lose you a game against Pakistan or West Indies. I am hopeful that by the end of the current ODI Super League cycle, Afghanistan will be at least a slightly better side in the format as they will get a fair few matches against top teams which I mentioned earlier.

Rashid Khan or Mohammad Nabi?

Tough question honestly. The two have had different roles to play. Mohammad Nabi, for example, was one of the early stars from Afghanistan. So so clever as an off-spinner and destructive with the bat, Nabi used to win matches single-handedly in all three formats. If not for him and his compatriots, Rashid wouldn’t have probably had this platform. Rashid, on his own, has put Afghanistan on the global cricketing map. Think I will have to just favour Rashid as there is probably more to come from him in the future and he could finish as the cricketing legend from the country.

Not just Cricket, you seem to follow almost all the sport that has been played in India, tell us which other sports that you follow and how long have you been following them?

I used to follow many sports until a year ago when I was in college. It all started from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and have always been fascinated by various events, especially multi-nation the tournaments like the Commonwealth Games/Asian Games. There is no bigger thrill than watching Indian athletes succeed in sports that isn’t cricket. India are one of the best in cricket, the same can’t be said about others. Nowadays, I am just restricted to Cricket and Indian Football. Same time, I am very excited for the Tokyo Olympics next year.

Do you think IPL has impacted Ranji Trophy in any way?

It has definitely impacted, both positively and negatively. IPL has helped BCCI pump more money into the domestic game. On the other hand, it has also changed the goals for both coaches and players. There is this common analogy- Earlier, coaches used to start by teaching defense, now they might start teaching how to play a reverse sweep. It is just a reflection of the demands of modern day cricket. Overall, we can conclude the impact has been positive because IPL has helped cricket reach nooks and corners of the country.

Who is your favourite Indian Cricketer? Tell us a bit about him/her.

Have quite a few, will mention four. From the men’s game, it will be KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant and Prasidh Krishna. Rahul, Initially I was a fan of his Test match batting, now he has turned into a flamboyant limited overs batsman. Rishabh Pant, I was excited since 2014-15 Because they were articles regarding his explosive batting in U-19 cricket. After watching him in the U-19 WC in 2016, it’s been a rollercoaster ride. Prasidh Krishna, I saw him while he was playing in the Karnataka Premier League in 2015. He was 18 or 19 but was already one of the most talented pacers in my view. From women’s cricket, it will be Smriti Mandhana. While Harmanpreet Kaur has been playing for several years, I would say it has been Mandhana who has changed the mind-set for future Indian batswomen with her aggressive style of batting.

For this final question, let’s create a dream 11 but of India and Afghanistan players only. (Active players only)

Rohit Sharma
KL Rahul
Virat Kohli
Shubman Gill
Rishabh Pant
Mohammad Nabi
Hardik Pandya
Rashid Khan
Jasprit Bumrah
Kuldeep Yadav
Hamid Hassan
(Quota Pick 😂)

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