Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai says players need to live up to expectations in inaugural Test against India

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Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai.

Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai said it is the responsibility of his players to live up to expectations as they prepare for their inaugural Test against India which begins in Bengaluru on Thursday.

Stanikzai hopes the buoyant mood back home in Afghanistan will help his team when play begins at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium against the No1 Test team in the world.

“It is history that we are playing the inaugural and historic Test match against the number one team in the world,” Stanikzai was quoted as saying by AFP.

“The mood back home is very positive. They expect us to perform well because recently Afghanistan performed really well in T20 and one day internationals and their expectation will be the same for Tests.

“We have worked hard for this and will try to keep up our good performance in the Test match as well,” the 30-year-old said.

Afghanistan gained ODI status in 2009 and have since qualified for their second 50-over World Cup – in England next year. They have also been part of four World T20s.

Afghanistan, who have set up base in India due to lack of a secure environment at home, enter the Test on the back of a 3-0 T20 series win over Bangladesh.

ALL EYES ON RASHID

Adding to their confidence is the form of teen sensation Rashid Khan who is now an established international star. Rashid took 21 wickets in the IPL for runners-up Sunrisers Hyderabad and scalped eight wickets in the T20 series against Bangladesh.

Afghanistan coach Phil Simmons said with the spotlight on rashid, other players are focusing on raising their game.

“Rashid is so professional, he knows how to deal with it. And while he is dealing with it the others have time to work on their own strategies,” Simmons said. “It’s a good thing for the team.”

The Afghanistan coach, however, was disappointed that his team won’t get to play against one of the premier players in the world – Virat Kohli.

“I think there will always be a bit of disappointment in the players not to be on the same field as Virat, but at the same time we look to win the Test match and beat India, we don’t beat Virat,” said Simmons.

“So we are disappointed he is not playing but a little bit happy that we are not going to bowl to him all the time,” he added.

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India's fitness issues and other factors working in Afghanistan's favour ahead of inaugural Test

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Rashid Khan will be the main threat to India's batsmen. Image: ACB/Twitter.

As Afghanistan‘s inaugural Test against India draws near, the disquiet within the Indian camp and the confidence within the visiting contingent grows.

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

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.

MOMENTUM

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.

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Watch as Afghanistan players land in Bengaluru for inaugural Test against India

Sudhir Gupta 10/06/2018
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Rashid Khan after arriving in Bengaluru. Image: ACB/Twitter.

Afghanistan landed in Bengaluru ahead of their inaugural Test against India which begins on Thursday.

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.

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