Batting is a game of patience and other takeaways for Afghanistan after inaugural Test defeat

Waseem Ahmed 16/06/2018
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Afghanistan's batting let plenty to be desired. Image - ACB/Twitter.

Afghanistan’s maiden Test came to a grinding halt inside two days as they succumbed to a heavy defeat by an innings and 262 runs against India at Bengaluru.

Asghar Stanikzai’s men, who became the 12th Test playing nation in history, found the going extremely tough against the No1 ranked Indians in their own backyard.

While the margin of defeat will no doubt be disheartening for the debutants, they will have learned plenty from the chastening.

Here, we take a look at three things Afghanistan can learn from their inaugural Test.

SPINNERS NEED TO ADAPT TO TEST MATCH LENGTHS

Before the start of the Test, Stanikzai had created a bit of a stir by declaring that his spinners were better than their Indian counterparts. With No1 T20 bowler Rashid Khan and mystery-spin prodigy Mujeeb ur Rahman in their ranks, you could see where Stanikzai was coming from.

However, what Rashid and Mujeeb learned the hard way was that Test cricket is light years away from the world of limited-overs formats. Instead of inserting constant pressure to set up the batsmen, they overdid it by trying to do too much with every delivery. Their line and lengths in the first session of the opening day were very much T20 cricket lengths with Rashid especially erring by trying to bowl too many googlies.

They did improve in this aspect by the time the second session arrived but by then, most of the damage had already been done by Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay.

Rashid Khan bowled too many googlies at the start. Image - ACB/Twitter

Rashid Khan bowled too many googlies at the start. Image – ACB/Twitter

BATTING IS A GAME OF PATIENCE

While all eyes were on Afghanistan’s bowlers ahead of the Test, the batsmen sort of slipped under the radar. In the end, it was their batting which was woefully exposed in both innings with none of the batsmen.

While their totals in both innings were paltry, it was the manner in which the Afghan batsmen approached the job which left a lot to be desired. There was barely any rotation of the strike with the batsmen choosing to deal mostly in boundaries. The way Mohammad Shahzad was run-out by Hardik Pandya in the first innings while trying to pinch a quick single showed a complete lack of application.

Stanikzai’s own dismissal in the second innings after being tied down by 11 consecutive dot-balls told the whole story. The Afghan skipper charged down the wicket to Ravindra Jadeja in an attempt to break the shackles and paid the price with his wicket.

What they will need to learn the hard way is that red-ball cricket is very much a test of attrition rather than going all gung-ho.

While they do not have much first-class cricket under their belt, Afghanistan will need to learn the art of batting in a Test match soon if they want to establish themselves as a formidable unit in the format.

Afghanistan have plenty to learn with the bat,. Image - ACB/Twitter.

Afghanistan have plenty to learn with the bat,. Image – ACB/Twitter.

AFGHANISTAN NEED MORE FIRST-CLASS CRICKET

The lack of first-class cricket experience was the biggest handicap for Afghanistan in their maiden Test. With an average first-class experience of less than 15 matches, the newcomers struggled with the basics of the game.

Young Mujeeb was in fact making his first-class debut in the same game.

The Ahmed Shah Abdali four-day tournament (Afghanistan’s first-class competition) was given official recognition from the ICC only last year and has six teams participating in it.

What Stanikzai’s men desperately need is a more robust first-class structure. Though the BCCI has been helpful in this regard by announcing that all touring teams to India will play a warm-up match against Afghanistan in the future, the debutants might need a little more than that if they are to make rapid progress in the Test arena.

Mujeeb and co need quality first-class cricket. Image - ACB/Twitter.

Quality first-class cricket is the need of the hour. Image – ACB/Twitter.

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Afghanistan confident they will learn from Test defeat against India

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Stanikzai is confident of taking lessons from the inning defeat.

Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) chief executive Shafiqullah Stanikzai has said that the comprehensive defeat to India will serve as a drawing board for the team in their quest to establish themselves as a top Test team.

Afghanistan were thrashed by an innings and 262 runs inside two days on Friday and says that experience is something they can learn from.

“We are not taking it on ourselves, there was a lesson to be learned,” Shafiqullah was quoted as saying by the AFP.

The Afghans in a huddle during the Test. Image - BCCI/Twitter.

The Afghans in a huddle during the Test. Image – BCCI/Twitter.

“It was a good thing that we faced the world number one Test side in our inaugural match. It has given us a real indicator if we are to become a top cricketing side in the world.

“I had a brief chat with the captain and he knows what needs to be done. We can only go higher and higher from here.”

Afghanistan coach Phil Simmons has attributed Afghanistan’s horror start to nerves.

“I think in the first part nerves got the better of them, and as they went along they showed what they are capable of,” the former West Indies cricketer said.

“But I think they are by no means happy with how they performed,” he added.

However, the Afghanistan coach has no doubt that the side will eventually get used to the pace of Test cricket.

“I do believe they want to succeed, they want to be good at it and we have to work five times as hard as we did. I believe that they will get there,” Simmons added.

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Rohit Sharma meets Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho during FIFA World Cup

Sudhir Gupta 16/06/2018
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Rohit with the Manchester United manager. Image - Rohit Sharma/Instagram.

That Rohit Sharma is a fervent football fan is a well known fact. The Indian cricketer, who is the only batsman to register three ODI double-tons, is a self-confessed Manchester United fan.

While the popular cricketer commands many fans in the cricket-crazy India, he had a total fan boy moment himself while on a promotional tour to Russia during the ongoing 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Given his love for the Red Devils, there is no doubt that the 31-year-old would have been over the moon after running into none other than Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho during his Russia sojourn.

With the man himself! #JoseMourinho

A post shared by Rohit Sharma (@rohitsharma45) on

Rohit, who is a brand ambassador for Swiss watch-makers Hublot, had a picture clicked with the Portuguese manager after crossing paths with him.

Mourinho is currently in Russia to do television punditry for state-owned Russia TV.

Taking to Instagram after his meeting with the ‘Special One’, Rohit wrote, “With the man himself.” The India star also watched the opening clash of the World Cup between hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia during his stay.

With the man himself! #JoseMourinho

A post shared by Rohit Sharma (@rohitsharma45) on

Both the celebrities attended the Hublot FIFA World Cup party in Moscow on Wednesday night.

Rohit was enjoying a short break from cricket after he was dropped from the Test squad and was not named to the Indian side which took on Afghanistan in their inaugural Test in Bengaluru.

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