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Afghanistan Cricketers Have The Potential To Script New Chapter In Tests

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As Afghanistan square up against India for their first ever Test match, there is plenty to look forward to. Come Thursday, a historic moment in cricket will happen in Bengaluru when the Afghans take the field with the red ball in their hand.
Wonders have happened for them in limited-overs cricket, but now the whole world will be glued to see their array in Tests. Afganistan cricketers have the potential to script a new and exciting chapter in Tests.
This is just the beginning of a new journey which beholds many promises and glitz in the coming years. Post the T20I series against Bangladesh, Shakib Al Hasan had claimed that their side failed to stop the Afghans because of a mental blockage.
But these Afghan cricketers seem to have no mental blocks. Their journey has been quite commendable and they know that getting to this phase has only come due to winning.
There is a feeling that Afghanistan’s cricketers will bounce back no matter what the scenario. For any Afghan youngster, it’s cricket that gives them belief and they know a lot of respect comes with that.
However, not all can pursue the same and muster the courage to chase their dreams given the stark reality. But there is hope, that in coming time, there could be many Rashid Khans and Mujeebs on the way.

The spectacular rise of Afghanistan

What is the best thing that has ever happened to cricket? Afghanistan’s unprecedented growth is as good an answer as any.
When one looks back at the time and rolls back those years, not a formal game of cricket was staged Afghanistan 15-20 years ago. Whatever cricket was played was limited to refugee camps in Pakistan. Despite not knowing what the future beholds,  Afghans dared to dream.
And now this week this week they will take on the world champions India.
The essence of their spectacular rise, without parallel in this sport’s history, is that they fearlessly cleared all the obstacles. With most Test-playing countries having the best of coaching facilities, the same cannot be said about the Afghans. Coaching does not play the same prescriptive role in an Afghan cricketer’s development. Players come out with their own unique style – for example, 18-year-old Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
The Afghanistan national team was formed in 2001, and they played in the 2009 World Cup Qualifier after rising rapidly through the World Cricket League, starting in Division Five in May 2008. They have rocketed above from the bottom and close to a decade later, the hard work has paid off.

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Their belief as a side to come out against all odds

What bodes well for the Asian side is that series after series, they are notching impressive achievements. The odds were against them in the ICC World Cup Qualifiers, but after a poor start to the campaign, they struck the right chords.
As the side assured their place in England for the 2019 event, they did not get carried away. Under Ashgar Stanikzai, they fought valiantly in a dead-rubber final to win hearts and laurels.
This team has the vigour and steel in them to challenge any situation. The fearless brand of cricket gives us the glimpses of a side not bothered by failure. They know their jobs well and knowing that performing to their capabilities will only bring immense joy to the people back home, where cricket is the only hope in bringing some smile and cheer.
As the war-torn nation has lost nearly everything to external forces, the players coming out from all adversity brings so much into consideration.
In England itself, there are reportedly 100,000 Afghans, who are staying there as migrants and once the World Cup starts in 2019, expect scores of fans to come and cheer for their heroes.

The promise which beholds

Bangladesh made their Test debut in 2000 and Zimbabwe had earlier done the same in 1992. Unlike Afghanistan, both nations played their debut Tests at home. And what’s interesting is that despite losing their debut Tests, both teams enjoyed spells of promise.
Bangladesh had scored 400 runs in Dhaka against India. Zimbabwe too had made their debut against India at Harare. Teams debuting always play with a lot of interest and vigour.  And like these two nations, Afghanistan too, know they can dominate certain period of the Test match.
When you bring Afghanistan into the perspective, they will never play at home in the foreseeable future, owing to the security situation in their country; and facing the world number one Test team in Bengaluru is likely to be a let-down. Afghanistan’s cricketers have not much experience in batting patiently all day.
But having said that, there is a promise that beholds for the side, who with time would be familiar playing in India consistently. More the number of Test matches ICC allocates them, the better it will get for the side.

Can Afghanistan draw a leaf from Irish book?

Ireland, who became the 11th Test-playing country last month, have limited potential to grow in the short term. Afghanistan, who will become the 12th on Thursday, have unlimited potential – or so their trajectory suggests. With time, Afghanistan cricket’s value has risen and in the short formats, they came out all guns blazing quite consistently.
But the challenge now awaits them in Test cricket. What the Afghanistan cricketers can bring into their play is take Ireland as an example.
Last month, the Irish side made a plucky start by holding Pakistan for most of their inaugural Test on a slow Dublin pitch. Irish cricketers may not have gone on to win the solitary Test match, but they did show the intensity to play the format. Picking 14 Pakistan wickets and scoring 300+ runs in the second innings, showed coming back from the indignity of the follow-on to push Pakistan all the way.
Ireland also showed that the game’s oldest form could only benefit from fresh blood.

Conditions in India suit them vastly

The BCCI has allotted the war-torn Afghans with two home stadiums in India. Greater Noida and Dehradun are their base where they will host matches. That, in turn, means that the side is pretty familiar with Indian conditions and what to expect from the pitches.
Rashid and Mujeeb had a terrific IPL 2018 with 35 wickets between them. Therefore, they will feel at home when they take on Rahane’s side. Add to that, the experience of Mohammad Nabi and stability of Rahmat Shah, Afghanistan looks set to give a fight against a Kohli-less India.
Afghanistan decimated Bangladesh in their first major bilateral T20I series and the 3-0 win in Dehradun have got the players in believing themselves largely. Come Bengaluru, the Afghans will be hoping to embark on a new journey with some positive brand of Test Cricket.

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