Rashid Khan Opens Up About Back Surgery, Playing 2023 World Cup At Low Fitness

Gujarat Titans’ (GT) ace spinner Rashid Khan opened up on Wednesday about undergoing back surgery following the ICC Cricket World Cup last year and the hardships he faced due to playing the tournament at low fitness levels. Following the 2023 Cricket World Cup in India, in which Afghanistan finished sixth, Rashid took some time off from the game to undergo back surgery and returned to the game during a T20I series against Ireland in March this year. Now, he is representing Gujarat Titans (GT) in the Indian Premier League (IPL), where he has taken eight wickets and scored 102 runs for his side at an average of 20.40 so far.

Speaking to ESPNCricinfo’s The Cricket Monthly, Rashid said that before the World Cup, the doctor had told him to go for surgery, but he delayed it to represent his country in the tournament. He decided to take a couple of injections before the tournament.

“Even before the World Cup, the doctor had told me I had to go for surgery, but I deferred the decision since I wanted to play that tournament. He warned me the back issue could become bigger in case I played, especially considering it was 50 overs, where my workload would be significantly large because I would play a minimum of nine ODIs. He feared I would need a major surgery. But I told him I had to play in the World Cup. I cannot say no to the World Cup. So we decided I would take a couple of injections before the tournament,” said Rashid.

Rashid said that following their big win over Pakistan, he celebrated and danced a lot all night and did not behave as if he had a back issue.

“Our physio kept reminding me I needed to be careful. The entire Afghanistan squad was surprised to see me dancing and celebrating; they had never seen me in that kind of mood. That happiness was different because that jashn was in the whole country [Afghanistan],” he added.

However, when he woke up the next day, he was in complete pain and played the rest of the tournament on painkillers and low fitness. “I told the physio I couldn’t walk properly. He just gave me such a hard stare. I used painkillers to keep going, but in the final three matches of the World Cup, I was literally playing at 40 per cent fitness,” he said.

Rashid said that his back issues were affecting him a lot while bending and the pain was going down to his shins.


“I could not sleep. I would sleep only at four or five in the morning at times. The only way I could sleep was by taking sleeping tablets and painkillers,” he said.

He said that during the final three games of his side during the World Cup, his hamstrings were sore, forcing him to slide rather than walk.

“I could not lift my feet properly. I started having all my meals in my room. By the last match, the coach said to me I did not need to play, but I said I would manage with painkillers. Because when I was warmed up, I was not feeling the discomfort. I could run, dive and all that. But after the game, for like an hour, I could not move,” he added.

Rashid said that after the tournament, he decided to go for surgery. “The doctor said to me, “This is your first MRI and this is your second MRI, after the World Cup, so you see how much bigger the disc bulge has become.” I was nervous, to be honest. It was my first ever surgery in my career,” he added.


The spinner revealed that his doctor revealed to him that a failed surgery could mark the end of his playing career, which left him tensed.

“I had to sign that undertaking. I was so tense the whole night before the surgery. I didn’t tell my family that I was having surgery,” he added.

Rashid said that during the surgery, the entire GT staff, including head coach Ashish Nehra, director of cricket Vikram Solanki and assistant coach Naeem Amin, supported him a lot. He also revealed that he was pain-free following the surgery, but wanted to return to the game quickly.

“Ashish bhai, who had gone through lots of surgeries, spoke to me a lot and told me not to worry. When I came out of the surgery, I felt no pain. I felt so relieved. The rehab part, though, was the toughest. I badly wanted to return to playing and was missing it. In fact, I was part of the Afghanistan squad for the T20 series in India in January this year because I wanted to have the feeling of being on the ground,” he added.

Rashid revealed that during the last T20I against India, which involved two super overs, he instinctively became ready to bat despite the fact he was not in the eleventh.

“Finally, when I started to play again, it was one of the best feelings to be back on the field. I thank Naeem a lot because he helped me a lot during my rehab when I was in the UK for nearly two months. He would come early every single day at 5-6 am and stay late and help with my recovery,” he added.

Rashid opened up that the surgery has affected his bowling too, like while bowling his wrong’un because he would need to use his back more and it would scare him if there was any bit of stiffness in his back.

“That feeling lasted through the series against Ireland, which Afghanistan played before the IPL, and then, like I said, the first few matches here (the IPL),” he added.

The spinner spoke to the franchise’s video analyst, Sandeep Raju, about his problem and Raju revealed to him that he was not hitting his lengths right like before.

“He also pointed out that my wrong’un was finishing on the leg stump instead of the middle. That is when I told him I was not getting the feeling, because I am not using my whole body. I am just using the fingers. There is nothing wrong with my back, but I only had this fear in my mind: what if the injury resurfaced?.”

“Then, two days before the IPL match in Lucknow, I told him [Raju] I would do spot bowling, which I did for about an hour. I might have bowled 14-15 overs in that session without any strain on my back. I bowled again the next day, on the eve of the match. That’s when I felt everything was okay,” he concluded.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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