When the match was originally scheduled, it was expected to be a straightforward proposition for the Indian team against Test cricket’s newest entrants. Even a less-than full strength Indian team was never going to be really tested by Afghanistan who anyhow don’t play a lot of first-class cricket, right?
Now a couple of days before the inaugural Test in Bengaluru, it doesn’t look like that will be the case. Afghanistan are riding high on their 3-0 T20 series win over Bangladesh and the sizzling form of leg-spinners Rashid Khan and Mujeeb ur Rahman. India, meanwhile, are without a few key players.
Here we take a look at the factors working in favour of Afghanistan ahead of their inaugural Test.
FITNESS ISSUES IN INDIAN CAMP
Regular captain Kohli was anyhow going to miss the match as he had lined up a stint in county cricket to prepare for the England Test series. Then he picked up a back/neck injury and now need to prove his fitness. Wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha injured his finger during the IPL and pace ace Mohammed Shami failed to pass the fitness test on Monday.
That’s three crucial member of the team missing. India have decided to give pace spearheads Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah rest. Also, Test regulars Ajinkya Rahane and Murali Vijay are not in any sort of form. This is far from a settled Indian unit and Afghanistan can make some quick inroads into the Indian line-up.
FORM OF RASHID AND MUJEEB
All we need now is the Afgan Boys to topple India and the world will be turned upside down !!— Niall John O Brien (@niallnobiobrien) June 10, 2018
Good form is invaluable, irrespective of the format. England’s Jos Buttler took his sizzling form in the IPL to the Test arena and helped level the series against Pakistan after his team had fallen behind.
Rashid and Mujeeb did well in the IPL and then in the subsequent T20 series against Bangladesh and that is overs and wickets under the belt in Indian conditions. Also, both Mujeeb and Rashid dismissed star players of spin like Kohli, MS Dhoni and KL Rahul in the IPL emphatically, which should give them confidence against ‘lesser’ batsmen.
The big boys are having a tough time against ‘minnows’ of late. Ireland kept Pakistan under pressure almost throughout their inaugural Test in Dublin. Thereafter Afghanistan blanked an established Test nation like Bangladesh 3-0 in T20s in the subcontinent. And then Scotland pulled the rug from under England in Edinburgh.
There is a real buzz among the teams who have felt left out over the past few years, especially after the ICC’s decision to restrict next year’s World Cup to 10 teams. There seems a genuine hunger to prove ‘them’ wrong. Ireland and Scotland have done so brilliantly. Afghanistan will be even more determined as they are the most dangerous among the bunch.
Afghanistan enter the Test high on confidence after defeating Bangladesh 3-0 in the recently concluded T20 series in Dehradun. Star spinner Rashid Khan picked up eight wickets in three matches and defended eight runs in the last over of the final game to be in the perfect frame of mind coming into the Test.
Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai had raised the stakes by claiming his team have better spinners than India. Rashid and Mujeeb ur Rahman will be the main threat to an Indian team without regular captain Virat Kohli and wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha.
The Afghanistan board and players posted images on social media after arriving in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru.
The Afghans will take on India in Bengaluru from June 14 and they are confident of giving Indian batsmen a tough time as they have in-form spinners in Rashid Khan and Mujeeb ur Rahman who were on fire during the recently concluded IPL.
For the record, India spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin are ranked fourth and fifth in the ICC rankings for Test bowlers.
“The whole world knows that we have good spinners in Rashid Khan, Mujeeb, Mohammad Nabi, Rahmat Shah, Zahir Khan,” Stanikzai was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo. “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. In my opinion, we have good spinners, better spinners than India.”
India will be without regular captain Virat Kohli, who is out due to a back injury, and wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha who has a finger injury.