Mujeeb Ur Rahman is everything Afghanistan cricket would like to flaunt. Only, unlike most of his countrymen, he was fortunate to have a cricketing background. He is already making ripples at 17 which can be attributed to the strong cricketing culture in the family.
Nephew to Noor Ali Zadran, who played in Afghanistan’s debut ODI against Scotland in 2009, Mujeeb has grown up in the nursery built by his uncle at his home in Kabul. The academy has produced many first-class cricketers.
“I used to bowl to my uncle from a very young age. And I bowled with a mindset that I was already playing at the international level. Right from the beginning, I got a chance to bowl to international players,” Mujeeb told in an interview.
His meteoric rise since the U-19 World Cup in New Zealand earlier this year has left him with very little time to learn things international cricketers are expected to. Language is one hurdle. “No English or Hindi. Only Pashto,” is all he can communicate with people outside Afghanistan.
Cricketers in Afghanistan have barely been exposed to formal coaching. And Mujeeb’s formative years coincided with the many innovations which have come to change the way the game is played. Hence, conventional form of spin bowling was never an option. “I watched Ajantha Mendis, Sunil Narine and Ravichandran Ashwin bowling different type of balls. That fascinated me. I kept watching the videos and grew with it,” Mujeeb reveals.
Mujeeb wears a wry smile when you ask him about how he broke through the defense of Virat Kohli during the IPL. “I observed his footwork very minutely. I drew him forward and exposed the gap.”