Karim is handy in the lower order as a hitter. © Cricbuzz
Karim Janat, an all-around bowler in Afghanistan, doesn’t mind living in the shadow of his older brother Asghar Afghan, even though he has made a name for himself in the shorter format with his ability to contribute both with bat and ball. While in Dhaka while playing for Prime Bank Cricket Club in the Dhaka Premier League, the versatile player opened up to Cricbuzz in an exclusive interview about his brother, fast bowling, Rashid Khan and more.
You are Asghar Afghan’s little brother, how did the love for the game come about?
We are nine brothers and Asghar went to cricket seeing his older brother. I also liked to play tennis-ball cricket, but I studied a lot. Later I went to Kabul Cricket Academy and the love for the game started from there. Seven of my nine brothers played cricket while me and Asghar represented the national team.
Do you think you have been under the shadow of Asghar?
It’s true and it had to happen. But at the same time, I would like to say that he (Asghar) was a very skilled captain. Listen, players will come but a captain is defined by his ability to use his resources because what I feel is that if the right player is not used at the right time it will hinder both the team and the player. In this respect he was very good. He prepared a lot of players like Rashid and others.
But your approach is very different from Asghar given that he is a calm person while you are not the same on the pitch?
Every player is different and he is basically a good batsman and he has to be calm taking all the responsibility on his shoulders while I am an all-rounder and therefore I have to play and if the match situation is such that there are few overshoots left , then I have to play offensive cricket.
When your brother Asghar started playing, cricket started to flourish in Afghanistan, but now the situation is different. How do you see this?
Nobody could believe that Afghan cricket could reach so far. At that time there was no money and Asghar, Nabi, Nawroz Mangal worked really hard. Now cricket has reached a new high. I think we have talent and we just need to polish them. The more we play international cricket, the better we will get.
Now, there are a lot of competitions in the rhythm bowling department. With the upcoming T20 WC, how do you expect it?
Yes, there is healthy competition in the pace unit and that is a very good thing. Before the T20 World Cup, there is the Asian Cup and I hope we will do well there. There are Naveen, Faroqi and others outside the Spinians and there are all-rounders like Azmatullah. We have high hopes and leave the rest to fate.
The coaching staff has been changed several times in the recent past. Wouldn’t you prefer long-term coaches?
I think the cricket board knows best what it wants to do with management. What I feel is that when a new coach arrives, it takes him five to six months to understand our culture and adapt to it. We have to give them time.
Andy Moles has rather succeeded…
Andy was a very good trainer and did a lot of hands-on work. He spent a lot of time in Afghanistan and as a result he had a deep knowledge of all the Afghan players of his time. I played two sets under him and he was well aware of my strengths and weaknesses as he had seen me before and everyone else during his tenure in Afghanistan.
Do you think Younis Khan and Umar Gul will be very helpful as they know your culture well?
They will certainly be useful. They are legends and they can be very helpful as they know our culture well. We have Thorpe as head coach and let’s see how long they are with us, but if they stay with us for a long time we can definitely benefit.
How important is rhythm in T20 cricket?
If you see the IPL, you’ll see that a lot of bowlers are bowling with a lot of pace, but at the same time giving up 40-50 runs in their four overs. Cricket these days is all about tactics. If you are smart and have variations, you will survive. Basically it all depends on the goals, like if you want to play a yorker or a good length you need to be able to play that delivery whenever you want. If you can play in the right areas and even if it’s 130 it will be hard to hit. But if you play in the wrong areas, even the finishers will hit you for a six, even if you have the rhythm.
Do you think Rashid Khan can take the reins of the Afghanistan team? He withdrew from the ICC T20 World Cup?
I think Rashid can accomplish a lot as a captain and he has all the experience from the IPL and other franchise leagues which made him more competent. During the World Cup, he did not want to become captain but how long can he refuse? He can take it if he finds that comfort zone. He is an aggressive captain and I played under his command for the first time in Lucknow against West Indies but at that time he was new but now he is more mature. In team meetings, when he speaks, he seems to be fully prepared and if he takes the captaincy now, he can go a long way.
How does the cadence unit change?
It’s drawing well. But we play our cricket in Asia like in Dubai and other places, but if we want to improve our unity of pace, we have to play away from Asia. Here the wickets are relatively friendly so we try to use our spinners but if we were playing away like South Africa, England or Australia we would have used more pace and as a result , we would have seen faster bowlers coming up. Now the trend is to support spinners here (Asia) and as a result fast bowlers are starting to get demotivated.
Is that why you also started focusing on your hitter after realizing it was hard to survive in that part of the world just as a fast bowler?
Yes, to some extent it’s true, but I opened the national T20 tournament at home and even played first tier in the series against Zimbabwe before the World Cup. In the national team, I have to be ready to hit anywhere and I’m okay with that. When I joined the U19 team I used to strike at a lower order, but the coaches promoted me as an opener and I scored a hundred in 2016. As a fly-half, I used to have the position of Rohit Sharma but in the national team my batting position changed and I made changes to my game and changed the position because in lower order you have very little time and you have to hit.
So you idolized Rohit Sharma as a drummer? Is there anyone else?
I really like two players, one is Shoaib Akhtar and the other is Rohit Sharma and I want to be a mix of them.
You have scored in first-class cricket. Do you have testing ambitions?
If you check my national record, you will see that I have done pretty well in first class cricket and I love first class cricket. But we play very few Test matches so I started ignoring red ball cricket and asked (the council) more than once that they shouldn’t consider me for Test cricket because that we barely play it. I think it’s better if I focus on white ball cricket and rest well. When we start playing more Tests, I want to try and cement my spot.