Where did you learn legspin and pick up your variations from?
I learnt legspin from my [six] brothers. They are all cricket lovers and they all bowl legspin. So I picked it up from them and it came naturally to me. There was one difference in my kind of legspin - I used to bowl quick from the beginning. They noticed that in my bowling and I realised that that kind of bowling and wrong'uns came naturally to me.
Was there any coach who helped you develop your bowling?
Whichever coaches I worked with, not one of them tried to change my style of bowling or my action. They would always give me confidence but nobody tried to change me. The head coach with our Under-19 team, Dawlat Ahmadzai, supported me a lot and told me I had a lot of talent and that I would go far. He gave me a lot of confidence. Otherwise, there was no coach as such who taught me the technicalities like how to hold the ball, how should the action be, how to release the ball, etc. All this came naturally to me.
How do you keep up this process of teaching yourself when you are playing in different leagues across the world and for Afghanistan?
I work on most things on my own. Like, these days I'm here for the IPL, so I train in the nets and try different variations on my own. There are some variations I'm still trying in the nets and haven't used in matches yet. I'm working on them in the nets.
No matter where I practise in the nets, whether in Greater Noida or Afghanistan, I work on myself on my own and I talk to the coaches about the team's requirements. Otherwise I don't really change my action or my bowling speed and no coach asks me to change them either.
Was there anything in particular you learnt from Muttiah Muralitharan [Sunrisers bowling coach]?
When he saw my action and everything, he told me, "You are absolutely perfect, and you don't need to change anything." He talks to me about spot bowling - focus on where I want to pitch the ball, the spot I want to target. Second thing he always tells me is that I have to remain relaxed and cool even when batsmen hit me for sixes, or even if I take five-six wickets, and that I should bowl according to my plan and targets. "What the batsmen do after that is different. You have to focus on your bowling and apart from the talent you have, you have to remain mentally strong." That's what he would tell me again and again. He has shared a lot of his experience with me and says that once you become mentally strong, it will help you in a lot of situations.
S Eco = Smart economy rate, one of a new set of metrics by ESPNcricinfo to accurately assess T20 performance
What did you tell yourself after Chris Gayle and Suresh Raina smashed you in two consecutive IPL matches? You said later that you had bowled too full in those matches. How did you come to realise that and how did you work on it?
I went and spoke to the coaches and I watched my videos with the analyst after those two matches [against Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings]. So I saw that I had bowled too full, and the coaches also saw it, but they said it was nothing to worry about. They said that the only problem was that I had bowled too full and the batsmen had connected the shots well. So I was advised that if I bowled back of a length, batsmen will find it hard to attack me. So I did some spot bowling after that and when I came to the Mumbai nets for the next match, my plan was to bowl on a good length. If the batsmen were going to hit me despite that, that was another thing. So that was my mindset.
Which Sunrisers coach did you speak to about all this?
All three coaches spoke to me - Tom Moody, VVS Laxman and Muralitharan. They all said the same thing - that everyone goes through ups and downs, and this is how you will learn. Something like this had never happened to me before, so it was good for me because I got to learn from this and it will help me prepare for the future.
The three coaches and the captain supported me in the nets. They asked me to bowl a bit shorter so that batsmen would not be able to attack me easily. So that turned out to be successful.
Since the two batsmen who had attacked you were left-handers, did you try to correct your strategy in the nets against a left-hander like Shikhar Dhawan or someone else?
No, no, that wasn't on my mind at all, that I hadn't bowled well to a lefty. My focus was on the spot bowling I did for three-four overs. I was confident that if I bowled on the right spot, nobody would be able to take me for runs. One or two performances don't really pull you down or make you a bad bowler. My focus was to bowl the right lengths. I bowled with that mindset and [said] the rest would take care of itself. Whether I was bowling to a righty or lefty, I wanted to bowl in the right spots against Mumbai Indians and later. I bowled to and dismissed Krunal Pandya in that match, so I knew things wouldn't be tough for me if I bowled in the right areas.
The statistics say that you have a much better record against right-hand batsmen than against left-hand ones. Do these things make a difference to you?
I prefer bowling to righty batsmen over lefties. I bowl the wrong'un much better to righties. I still enjoy bowling to lefties, especially when I beat them with the wrong'uns, whether I get a wicket or not. Otherwise, I enjoy bowling to both kind of batsmen. But I don't feel that "Oh, a lefty or righty is on strike now" and do things differently.
Sometimes there are days when things don't go your way - maybe the wicket is not supporting you and batsmen sometimes hit your good deliveries also. I just try to learn from them and take the positives out of them and try not to repeat my mistakes.
Since you learn mostly by yourself, which legspinners do you like to watch on TV or on YouTube?
I have watched a lot of Shahid Afridi and Anil Kumble because both of them were quick in the air and were accurate. I still watch some of their videos.
Have there been any legspinners you have met and talked to during the IPL or in other T20 leagues
You meet a lot of people here and share ideas with them. Recently I met [Ish] Sodhi, so we also shared our ideas and experiences.
Do you train differently depending on which T20 league you're bowling in, or if you're bowling in international cricket?
When I train, no matter where I am, my focus is on my length and to bowl well. Say if I bowl 100 balls, I try to calculate what percentage of those I bowled in good areas and how many in bad areas. It also depends on where I'm bowling, so I have to adjust my lengths according to the conditions also. So I prepare, discuss strategies with the coaches, practise in the nets, and bowl accordingly.
Whom do you discuss things with usually?
With the senior players and the coaches. In the IPL I talk to Shikhar Dhawan, our captain, Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan. Mostly with those who have played here a lot. So I ask them how to bowl to which batsmen, how to bowl on certain pitches, so these kinds of ideas help a lot.
Which phase of the match do you enjoy bowling the most in - Powerplay, middle overs or the death?
I enjoy bowling in all phases. You get only four overs in a T20 match so I put in my best into each of those. A lot of times captains ask me when I'd like to bowl. So I just tell them, "Whenever you need me, I'm ready to bowl, whether it's in the beginning or at the end." So it could be any point of time in the game - I'm always ready.