Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi: Father wrote 44 books on science, cricketer-son loves Bollywood and is taking Afghanistan cricket to new heights



Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi: Father wrote 44 books on science, cricketer-son loves Bollywood and is taking Afghanistan cricket to new heights

Afghanistan skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi speaks about the change in mindset, his passion for cricket, his favourite Bollywood movie and how cricket brings smiles on the faces of his countrymen.


Written by Pratyush Raj


Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi was swamped with requests for selfies, but none of them were for him. He was just a messenger to his teammates. Most of them were there for Rashid Khan, the spin wizard and big-hitting lower order batsman. “Sabko Rashid (Khan) ke saath selfie lena hai (Everyone wants to take a selfie with Rashid). He is a superstar,” Hashmatullah says.

For Hashmatullah, who hails from Logar, 87 km away from Kabul, it was either physics books or bats to pick from and he chose the latter. His father, Mohammad Hashim Shahidi, a physics professor, has written 44 books and wanted his son to become a top scientist.

“I belong to an educated family. My father has written all the physics textbooks from Class 9 to 12. He has written 44 books on science. He was very smart. He wanted me to keep education as my first priority and cricket just as a hobby. I never liked physics that much. Mai acha tha bhi nahi padhai mey (I was never good at studies),” Hashmatullah tells The Indian Express in an exclusive interview.

“My father used to tell me to focus on studies. I would tell him okay, I will continue my education, I even sat for university exams to keep him happy but my passion was cricket, and once I was picked for the U-19 team, I barely managed to finish my school. Going to university was not an option,” Hashmatullah says.

Hashmatullah’s greatest regret is not being with his father when he passed away in 2018. He was playing first-class cricket.

“I remember I was unbeaten on 120 at the end of the day’s play. I called my father and told him to pray for me so that I could score a double hundred. There were few guests in our house, so my father just said ‘I am busy, we will talk tomorrow once you complete your double hundred. You will make the big one’. Then he disconnected the call. That’s the last time we spoke. I was playing six hours away from home. He slept and never woke up,” Hashmatullah adds.

Five years later, Hashmatullah did score a double hundred. In March earlier this year, he became Afghanistan’s first Test double-centurion and helped Afghanistan level the two-Test series against Zimbabwe after they lost the series opener in just over two days.

It has been a rollercoaster ride for the past six months for Hashmatullah.

In May, he was appointed as ODI and Test captain of Afghanistan. In August, he lost his mother. Now with 226 runs in six innings, Hashmatullah is the leading run getter for his country in the World Cup.

The captaincy of Afghanistan is a crown of thorns. The shake-up in captaincy isn’t new in Afghanistan cricket. But to Hashmatullah’s credit he has already become the best Afghanistan captain of all time. He led his team to three victories against three World Cup winners, including defending champions England.

Hashmatullah Shahidi Hashmatullah Shahidi. (Reuters)

“When I took the captaincy, it was not easy. When the board approached me I took it as a challenge. I wanted to do something for my country. Alhamdulillah sab acha ho raha (By god grace, everything is going fine). My only motive was not to be selfish. I only thought about my country. I knew that there would be challenges, it was in my mind. But everything has panned out as per the plan,” says Hashmatullah, who will turn 29 in two days time.

He says being a leader helped him to think more about the team rather than individual achievements. He admits it took him some time to look at the bigger picture

“When you are a leader, there are more responsibilities on you. As a player, I was circumspect, I used to put a lot of pressure on myself. I wanted to finish the game. I always wanted to carry the team through, and it was hampering my batting. I was struggling with my strike rate. I was taking so much pressure, but after a while, I realised that I am not the team, I am just a part of it. Instead of going for individual glory, my role is also to steer my teammates. It’s a team game,” he says. Afghanistan’s last two wins against Pakistan and Sri Lanka have come, while chasing. In both the matches, Hashmatullah has been the lynchpin of that chase. Against Pakistan, he remained unbeaten on 48 and put on an unbeaten 96-run stand with Rahmat Shah. Against Sri Lanka, he forged a 111-run winning partnership with Azmatullah Omarzai.


“Building partnership is something we have worked upon a lot. We needed to show more trust in ourselves. The talent was always there. We needed to rotate strike more, we worked on our running between the wicket. We were also not playing cricket regularly against the top sides. Even if we were playing a series, those were not against the top teams. So playing in the Asia Cup mattered a lot for us,” he says. ‘

“Playing according to the situation is another area we have worked. Sometimes when you lose two or three wickets quickly, one needs to dig in. The talk was to play fifty overs, don’t waste a single ball. Batting collapse was something we have worked on a lot. The change of mindset has also done wonders. We now believe that we can qualify for the semis,” he adds.

Bollywood watcher

Hashmatullah never liked physics, instead, he grew up watching Kumar Sangakkara’s batting and Bollywood movies.

“I can bet I have watched more Hindi movies than you. My kids speak in Hindi at our home,” Hashmatullah jokes.

“I love romantic movies, my favourite is Tum Bin and Baghban. I love Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan. My favourite sporting movie is Dangal,” he says.

Unlike the movie ‘Dangal’ where a pushy father forced his dreams on their children, Hashmatullah has been lucky as his physics-loving father never forced his dream on him.

“He always wanted to bring a smile to the face of Afghan people. In a way, I am living abbu’s dream,” he says.






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