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Adil Rashid: England’s World Cup winner on faith, heart, unity & celebration


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A man begins to count down: “30, 29, 28… You’ve got until zero to get your selfies and after that it’s finished.”

Adil Rashid has just spent over an hour greeting jubilant supporters at Masjid Umar, his local mosque in his home city of Bradford, and is scrambling towards the exit. “Sorry about this,” he says as I attempt to keep up.

A few more excited children and adults sneak in a picture with their neighbourhood hero and he continues to apologise each time he is stopped. He suggests we head for his car, parked outside – the only peaceful place we’ll find for a chat.

As we get in and the doors are locked, he puffs out his cheeks and widens his eyes. It has been a whirlwind few days since England’s victory in the Cricket World Cup, and Rashid’s part in it.

After lifting the trophy at Lord’s following an incredible final on 14 July, he was mobbed by a raucous crowdon his homecoming, before meeting the prime minister with his team-mates at Downing Street a day later.

“I’m still on a high,” Rashid says. “It’s a good feeling to see everyone here, especially the kids. They’re seeing someone from this area who has made something for themselves and achieved something massive.

“There is hope there for them. He has done it and so can we. If I can be an inspiration to the youngsters – or anyone for that matter – then I have done my job.”

A celebratory event is being held at the mosque where Rashid prays and he points out that just a few yards up the street is where he first started playing cricket at the age of eight.

There are about 400 people there and, like England’s celebrations at The Oval the day after victory over New Zealand – when kids were given the opportunity to touch the trophy and get close to the players – the 100 or so children present are again ushered up to the front row.

Imam Sajid congratulates Rashid on his achievements and tells the captivated crowd to “aspire to be the best” in whatever field they choose. He gets a good laugh when he jokes: “We were all supporting England…as soon as Pakistan were knocked out.”

But it was not Rashid’s 11 wickets, including three in the semi-final win over Australia, or the 45 runs he scored in his five innings that the imam eulogised over. Instead, it was the “sacrifice he made for his country” in attempting a second run from the penultimate ball in the final, which allowed Ben Stokes to get back on strike.

Rashid was run out without facing a delivery. Stokes managed a single off the final ball of the innings to tie the match. Then came THAT super over. The imam adds: “Don’t forget your identity. First and foremost, we are Muslims – but we are born here and should serve our country.”

The leg-spinner fields a few medium-paced questions from the children. What would you be if you were not a cricketer? “A teacher to help the kids in the community.” Who’s better, you or Stokes? “He’s probably better, he’s a world-class player.”

As with all Muslim functions, such as weddings, presentation ceremonies or talks like this, a few Islamic verses are read and Rashid’s nephew, Haseeb, recites from the chapter of Yasin, seen as the heart of the Qur’an. It was through a chance meeting with a future colleague eight years ago that Rashid’s own heart changed for the better and helped turn him into the person he is today.

The crowd listened intently as Rashid spoke at his local mosque

Rashid became a professional for Yorkshire in 2006 at the age of 18. He played five one-day internationals for England in 2009, but was quickly dropped from the side. He has admitted he struggled to deal with that career “low”.

It was not until May 2015 that he was recalled to the international set-up, brought back two months after a disastrous World Cup that England exited at the group stage.

With 129 dismissals, Rashid was the leading wicket-taker in the world in between that World Cup and the one England hosted this summer, better than India’s Jasprit Bumrah, New Zealand’s Trent Boult and Australia’s Mitchell Starc.

The 31-year-old’s development has been aided by the appointment of Saqlain Mushtaq as England’s spin consultant. The former Pakistan international has been a huge influence on the field – but even more so off it.

“It was 2011 in this very mosque that I came for a prayer and I bumped into Saqlain, who was on a spiritual retreat here. I tagged along with him for around 10 days and it was an eye opener for me,” Rashid says.

“It brought up questions about what I am doing with my life outside of cricket. As a Muslim, what is my duty? What do I need to do? Am I being a good person? Am I reading all five compulsory prayers? I had to think about all that, because prior to that I was not a fully practising Muslim – it was all about cricket.

“You have a good day, you are buzzing. If you have a bad day then you feel depressed. I really got into Islam and started reading up on stuff so after that, whether I had a good or a bad day, I knew Allah was in control. That really got me content, level-headed and relaxed. You still work hard but the outcome became irrelevant.

“My emotions were more on an even keel – and that has been the case over the last six or seven years. Before that, the highs and lows were having a negative effect, not just on myself but those around me too. You get moody and down around friends and family but then get overly happy.

“That was something I was stuck into because I did not have a strong belief in Islam. The religion gave me a sense of a way of life around my actions, my etiquettes and how to interact with people. I’m very thankful to Allah that that happened to me.”

Saqlain Mushtaq with Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali before England’s match against New Zealand

That change saw Rashid take his faith much more seriously and he reveals that he, Saqlain and team-mate Moeen Ali pray together all the time, whether that be in the dressing room during matches or at the hotel.

They remind each other of the prayer times and make sure to “keep each other in check”, while the other players are now familiar with their rituals and everyone is “very respectful” of one another.

A custom which was widely shared on social media includes taking a team picture then “sliding away” when the players spray the champagne after winning a tournament, because touching or consuming alcohol is forbidden in Islam.

Meanwhile, England captain Eoin Morgan also received widespread praise after the final and a clip went viralwhere he said the team won because “Allah was definitely with us”. Rashid explains the context behind the quote.

“An England captain saying this after winning the World Cup with the media around the world watching, it will have shocked many people. ‘This is the captain of England, how can he say this?’

“It didn’t take me by surprise because Morgan is someone who believes in a higher power. The surprising thing was that he relayed a private conversation into the public by talking about it in the news conference after the game.

“When you win the World Cup, you have so many emotions and when the guy asked him the question about having the luck of the Irish, he remembered the chat and gave that response.

“For him to say that in the media was a big thing for him as a person. He has gained so much respect from Muslims around the world – and, from my behalf, it was just to tell him that God was with us, don’t worry.

“It will be taken positively and negatively, but he also said that the team is united, so I am thankful to him. He is a very nice person. He has a good heart, he wants the best in people and is very well respected.

“Just by that comment, it will change perceptions of Muslims. I have seen people locally and around the world going crazy over it. Morgs is respected so much.”

Drummers welcomed Rashid’s arrival in Bradford on Tuesday, two days after winning the World Cup

Rashid grew up in the working-class Girlington area of Bradford. Streets are lined with terraced houses predominantly occupied by Muslim families from Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Afghan backgrounds.

A quiet and unassuming character, described as “humble” by former Pakistan batsman Mohammad Yousaf,Rashid is now relishing the responsibility of helping others and says his schedule over the next few weeks includes supporting a Yorkshire cancer research event and speaking at a local school.

Last month, a six-part TV series that aired on BBC One called Hometown: A Killing delved into a world of drug disputes, gun crime and violence in West Yorkshire, particularly among the Pakistani community, but Rashid is optimistic despite the well-documented issues in the region.

“We are looking at the youngsters who are on the wrong path, not getting anywhere with their lives. Maybe they are involved in dealing drugs. It is them we want to target and get off the streets and get them knowing they can change their lives.

“For us as a team, being so diverse – with myself, Moeen, Morgan, Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes – it shows how we can come together and unite and play under the England banner. Unity can achieve so many things. We want to give the message that regardless of race, religion or colour, we have to respect everyone and be 100% committed to what you want to do.

“Hopefully it will open doors to many things. It was not just about winning a World Cup, it was about how we won it, who was involved. There were people from Pakistan, the West Indies, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa all coming together, showing that we can work as a team and achieve something.

“People will see that anything is possible. There is a lot of negativity around at the moment, and the uncertainty with Brexit, but hopefully this can turn things to a positive.

“This World Cup win will do wonders for the country. Inshallah.”

Rashid and the team met then Prime Minister Theresa May at Downing Street after their World Cup triumph

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