Longer spells and Test endurance await Afghanistan
The Afghans’ approach looks tad arrogant
It has been barely nine years since Afghanistan landed in the world of cricket. Their body language, along with a gang of deceptive spinners, has turned out to be a money-spinner. India definitely start favourites in the iconic Test match starting in Bengaluru from Thursday, but the binoculars would also be out for the Rashid Khans and the Mujeeb ur Rahmans.
Why shall one watch a Test match where Afghanistan — a team that will graduate from white ball to red ball — is likely to struggle against giants like India? On pen and paper, it is one-sided but there have been instances when Rashid cleaned up Virat Kohli and Mujeeb outfoxed Ben Stokes in the Indian Premier League.
The duo will benefit a lot from their IPL experience. Skipper Asghar Stanikzai already claimed that his boys are better spinners than their Indian counterparts. “In my opinion, we have good spinners, better spinners than India,” he was quoted as saying in a cricket website.
There has been a lot of India behind the rise of Afghanistan. So, the tone of impudence, at times, may come across as ungrateful.
Mujeeb is all set to use a trick he learnt from India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who was the youngster’s captain in the IPL at Kings XI Punjab. “I spent time with Ashwin at the nets. He told me spots where to bowl. He has also taught me a new ball and I am trying to learn it. It is a carrom ball with an off-spin action,” revealed Mujeeb.
Rashid believes the ICC World T20 tournament, held in India in 2016, was a game-changer of sorts. “Before I came into the side, the seniors would aspire for Test status. The biggest moment was the manner in which we performed in that World T20 competition. We gave a tough time to every opponent. We lost but we gained a lot of confidence from our performances,” he said.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India also provided the Afghans a new home in Dehradun where it hosted Bangladesh for a three-match T20 series.
They whitewashed the Tigers to lay a solid foundation to begin the Test match.
Afghanistan’s challenge will depend on how they can transform their big talks into reality. The bowlers need to bowl longer and maintain energy.
The sparks of overconfidence didn’t go down well with the Indians.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik, who is returning to the Test fold after eight years, said experience will have an upper hand. “I don’t know what Stanikzai said (about his spinners), but we have got a lot of experience. It is not only in Test matches alone, but also in domestic cricket and four-day cricket,” he said during a media interaction on Tuesday.
“All their spinners put together wouldn’t have played that many matches that Kuldeep Yadav would have played in four-day cricket,” he added.
Middle-order batsman Karun Nair, another comeback story in the Indian dressing room, was surprised. “That’s a big statement to make. They haven’t played Test cricket. Our spinners are proven wicket-takers in Test cricket,” he said.
But cricket can be a funny game; whether it will spin or not remains the question.