A Test win inside two days doesn’t really tell you how good a team really is because deficiencies, if any, get swept under the carpet even before they come up for scrutiny.
India dismantled Afghanistan‘s line-up with clinical precision to win the Bengaluru Test by an innings and 262 runs to reinforce their status as the No1 Test team in the world. Centuries from Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay, followed by wickets from all frontline bowlers made it a near-perfect performance from the Indians.
With India’s next big Test assignment being the five-match series in England, we look at three positives India can take from the Afghanistan Test to England.
FORM OF OPENERS
Openers are going to be crucial in English conditions and India need the best available options in as much form as possible. Murali Vijay hardly gets to bat nowadays in pressure situations and he got to play just one match for the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL. Shikhar Dhawan was in fine touch in the IPL for Sunrisers Hyderabad but but red-ball cricket is a different beast and with the left-hander, you never know.
However both batsmen got centuries against Afghanistan on a true surface under overcast conditions, which should count for something. Dhawan scored a century before lunch, underlining his match-winning potential while Vijay got to spend time in the middle, which is just the assurance the Tamil Nadu batsman and the Indian management needed.
PACERS ON TARGET
One of the biggest pluses was the length that Ishant Sharma bowled. The overs behind him in county cricket have helped.— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) June 15, 2018
Mohammed Shami, arguably India’s best pacer in all conditions, failed a fitness Test for the Afghanistan Test. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah were rested. Which meant Test specialist Ishant Sharma and and out-of-favour Umesh Yadav led the pace attack against the Afghans.
Ishant was back after a successful stint in county cricket for Sussex while Yadav – who has enough Test experience under his belt – was superb for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL. Both bowed with pace and got movement in the air and off the pitch. Can’t ask for more.
One of the bigger concerns for the Indian management was off-spinner Ravi Ashwin’s decision to switch to leg-spin in the IPL in order to fight his way back into the limited overs set-up. Reports emerged of the management fearing Ashwin would lose his strength in Tests – off-spin – if he continued down that path.
During the IPL, Ashwin went back to off-spin and in the Afghanistan Test, was at his best. Ashwin gave a lot of air to the ball and beat the batsmen with flight. Afghanistan is not a strong batting unit by any stretch of the imagination but watching Ashwin get the ball above the eyeline of batsmen was a sight to behold.
India bowled out Afghanistan twice on Friday as they secured victory by innings and 262 runs. Asghar Stanikzai’s men were shot out for 103 in the final session at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. The second innings lasted just 38.4 overs after the Afghans had been dismissed for 109 in 27.5 overs in their first innings in pursuit of India’s 474.
After the match, Rahane and the Indian team were given the winners’ trophy and India’s stand-in skipper decided to invite the Afghan players to pose with the hosts and the trophy.
Karthik has been named as a replacement to injured Wriddhiman Saha, for the one-off Test against Afghanistan.
And having last played in the five-day format in 2010, Karthik gave an honest reply when asked why he believes he couldn’t wear the whites for India for all these years – “he wasn’t as good as Dhoni”.
“Look, I think I wasn’t good enough, rather I was not consistent enough. That was a highly competitive environment and there was someone called MS Dhoni breathing down my neck, which caused a lot of stir in world cricket at that point of time. He went on to become one of the greatest captains India has ever produced,” he said.
“So, I didn’t lose my place to some normal cricketer; he (Dhoni) was special. I respect him for that. At that stage, I could not produce enough performance to hold on to my side. I need to be honest with myself. Now, I have another opportunity and I guess, I will try my best,” the 33-year old explained.
Now though, Karthik has a chance to make a case for himself, as he plays in place of Saha in the Test that starts June 14 at the M Chinnaswamy in Bengaluru.
He says he doesn’t wish to overburden himself by thinking about sealing his position and instead wants to keep things simple.
“If you go deep into the question on what I should do to keep out someone else, then you are taking energy away from the fact that you are competing with somebody (Afghanistan). That puts extra pressure to what already is there,” he said.
“What I am trying to do — as cliched as it may sound — is trying to be the best cricketer that I can be, not on the field but also off the field. I am trying to be consistent there, even if I don’t get an opportunity. Even if I don’t play the sport at the highest level, I want to be content with the fact that I have given everything I had — both on and off the field,” Karthik said.
“If I go into your question and start thinking about that aspect, then it will be subjective — I need to score this, I need to score that. I don’t want to keep it that way. I want to keep it in a way which is try and prepare as much as I can. And given a chance, try and deliver. I am keeping my whole process that way.”
— BCCI (@BCCI) June 11, 2018