India vs Afghanistan: Match Preview
India will take on Afghanistan in a one-off historic Test in Bangalore on June 14th. This Test will be the first official Test match Afghanistan will play and it’s fitting that it is played against India considering the fact that Afghanistan’s home ground for international fixtures is in Gurgaon, India. While it is obviously a momentous game for Afghanistan, this game also carries importance for India because after this game, the away tours of England and Australia awaits them in this calendar year. Virat Kohli will be on the sidelines, after being ruled out due to a neck injury he suffered during the IPL and Ajinkya Rahane will lead the side in his absence.
India’s side has a few things to sort out before they head out to England. While Nos. 3-6 is pretty sorted with Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik Pandya, they will need to make a decision as to who will be the two openers out of Murali Vijay, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan. With Wriddhiman Saha ruled out for more than a few weeks, Dinesh Karthik will take up his place for this Test but with Karthik being in superb touch with the bat in 2018, will Saha be India’s first choice after his lean tour of South Africa and IPL, as well? Saha is arguably the better wicketkeeper and is likelier to be in the XI come 3rd August at Lord’s but a top performance from Karthik with both bat and gloves will give selectors something to think about.
The other conundrum will be to choose the two openers for India. Murali Vijay will almost certainly be picked because of his impressive overseas record and the other spot will be a tossup between Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul. Rahul had a magnificent IPL and has previously done better than Dhawan in overseas tours. Dhawan is a left-hander and India do not have one in their top and middle order. It will be a close shout, but Rahul’s recent form and his previous performances overseas could see him pip Dhawan to the other opening slot.
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Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah have been rested but with Mohammad Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav in the side, India should be fine. India will also be able to call on spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, both of whom have a stellar record at home. Kuldeep Yadav, the chinaman bowler, is also in the squad and could be given an opportunity to prove himself, as well. With big overseas tours coming up, all of them are competing for spots in both the squad and starting XI’s and it will be fascinating to see how they fare.
Afghanistan will eagerly be waiting for the moment to step onto the field for the very first time as a Test-playing nation. They are a very exciting side to watch and will be brimming with confidence after comfortably beating Bangladesh 3-0 in the recently concluded T20I series. They have a lot of experienced batsman like Asghar Stanikzai, Mohammad Shahzad, Mohammad Nabi who have all done commendably in the limited overs format. This will be the moment of reckoning and they will be understandably ecstatic to have this opportunity to play Test cricket.
However, all eyes will be on their young spin trio of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb-ur-Rahman and Zahir Khan who have done very well so far. Rashid, in particular, has become a superstar in T20 leagues all over the world and is one of those characters you would love to see playing the game.
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Afghanistan skipper Asghar Stanikzai made an interesting remark, as well. Stankzai said:
“The whole world knows that (we have good spinners like) Rashid Khan, Mujeeb, Nabi, Rahmat (Shah), Zahir (Khan)”.
“In Afghanistan, the brilliant thing is that a lot of the young talent that is coming through are spinners, because they all follow Rashid, they follow Nabi, so because of that our spin department is very strong from below. In my opinion, we have good spinners, better spinners than India”, he told ESPN.
Rashid Khan, who has been a sensation in white-ball cricket has been nothing short of a revelation. He is the ICC’s top-ranked T20 bowler and is ranked No.2 in ODIs, but has played just four first-class matches, albeit with an excellent record of 35 wickets in those four games. Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, the seventeen-year-old, meanwhile, was wonderful in this year’s Indian Premier League under his counterpart Ravichandran Ashwin, before an injury curtailed his season. Mujeeb is however yet to play any cricket at first-class level. Left-arm spinner Zahir Khan, who was picked by the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL but did not play due to an injury has played seven first-class matches, boasting a splendid record of 34 wickets at an average of 13.
This will be a huge moment for Afghanistan and for cricket itself, in general, considering Afghanistan’s backstory. These bunch of Afghan cricketers are a huge inspiration and boy, imagine if they do the unthinkable and knock over India?
India squad: Ajinkya Rahane (c), Shikhar Dhawan, M Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Karun Nair, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Shardul Thakur
Afghanistan squad: Asghar Stanikzai (c), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Javed Ahmadi, Ihsanullah Jannat, Rahmat Shah, Nasir Jamal, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Afsar Zazai, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Zahir Khan, Hamza Hotak, Syed Ahmad Sherzad, Yamin Ahmadzai, Wafadar Momand, Mujeeb ur Rahman
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