India is up against Afghanistan in a one-off Test starting from June 14 onwards in Bengaluru. One vital aspect that will garner a lot of interest is the challenge against spin. This is a historic moment for the war-torn Afghans, who despite all the challenges have grown leaps and bounds.
Afghanistan is a rising force and they have shown that in limited-overs cricket already. Therefore, the Ajinkya Rahane-led side should be worried about the spin talent that Afghanistan possess.
India goes into the Test as favorites and the possibility of Afghans orchestrating an upset is bleak. Having said that, Afghan spinners vs Indian batsmen will be an interesting battle. The likes of Cheteshwar Pujara and Co. should respect the talent on offer and not take this Test lightly.
Will the Afghan spinners spell trouble for Indians? Here’s our report.
Rashid Khan-led Afghan spin trio look lethal
India hasn’t come across top notch spin bowling combination off late in Tests. Here, they will be up against three quality spinners – out of which Rashid is in a different level altogether. The youngster has taken the most wickets in 2018 in both ODIs and T20Is. He has consistently delivered the goods for Afghans and against Bangladesh too, his seven wickets provided the killer instinct.
One can call Rashid a wrist spinner, but his variety is of top quality and the bowler feels that he is more of a finger spinner. The partnership with Mujeeb Ur Rahman will hold the key for Afghans, and if the two young guns can bowl long spells in tandem, the ploy could definitely work. Mohammad Nabi meanwhile, will play a support role and he too has the knack of breaking partnerships.
The prospect of coming up against mystery bowlers will test the Indian middle-order. It will be a challenge that will also make the hosts relish the opportunity to show their grit. A captivating battle is on the cards. Rashid in particular at the age of 20, has already picked 156 wickets in international cricket. The red ball game will not only excite him but propel him to attack.
What can Rashid & Co. feed on?
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.
Bengaluru pitch is expected to help the spinners at large, and that’s where the Afghans come into the business. The debutants have played limited-overs cricket in the international format and it will be vital for Rashid & CO. to feed on the art of being patient. They also need to be transparent in their approach and put the Indian batsmen to test. What will benefit them is that they will have a lot of overs to bowl and being consistent will be a key attribute.
India have done well against spin at home
The Indians have played an exhilarating brand of Test cricket at home and also in the sub-continent in the past two years. They have won six Test matches in this period and defeated all the visiting teams that came in the way. Outside home too, their performances in Sri Lanka was top notch as well.
But amidst all the glare and glitz, the Indian batsmen had two outings in a Test which they were bamboozled by spin. Against Australia in February 2017, Steven O’Keefe destroyed India with a total of 12 wickets. India was bundled out for 107 and 108 respectively as Aussies went on to win the first Test at Pune. India had developed a reputation for being the best teams against spin bowling in Tests, but O’Keefe shattered that aura as Australia bulldozed the world’s top ranked test team inside three days.
O’Keefe and off-spinner Nathan Lyon bowled in the right areas and got paid for consistency. The Indian batsmen’s poor approach was often led by a leaden foot-work and that helped the Aussies cash in. India did go on to win the Test series though. Will the Afghans draw inspiration from that performance?
Afghans limited-over form can help them build on
The striking factor for the Afghans is that their limited-over form has been on top gear. They won the ICC World Cup Qualifiers in March and beat West Indies in the final to lift the trophy. The feeling of playing in next year’s World Cup in England has given them a boost. And that has transpired into the side. They play a fearless brand of cricket and with time they have started to excel on all fronts.
Against Bangladesh in the recently concluded three-match T20I series, the Afghans created another piece of history by sweeping their first ever bilateral series against a Test-playing nation 3-0. And what bodes well for them was the innovative manner in which Rashid led the way. The likes of Mujeeb and Nabi too supported him well. They look at peace in Dehradun, where, in the first game the trio picked 6 wickets for 54 runs in 12 overs to lead the carnage.
If the spinners can transpire the form into the Tests, then they will be assured of creating plenty of chances in Bengaluru.