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'Afghanistern' test!

Updated on: 20 June,2024 07:54 AM IST  |  Bridgetown
R Kaushik |

Rohit Sharma & Co begin real challenge for second T20 World Cup title against a much-improved Afghan side in today’s Super 8 encounter

'Afghanistern' test!

Captain Rohit Sharma with teammates during India’s practice session in Bridgetown, Barbados, on Tuesday. Pic/PTI

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'Afghanistern' test!

For India, like for the other teams in the Super Eight stage, the T20 World Cup begins now. Having secured qualification from the group phase at the first time of asking, Rohit Sharma’s men begin their quest for a first World Cup crown since 2011 against Afghanistan on Thursday morning at the Kensington Oval, armed with the knowledge that they are unbeaten in eight T20I encounters against their opponents, but also not unaware that that will count for little.

Great start by Afghans

Afghanistan began the tournament like a house on fire, scoring three crushing wins on the bounce—against perennial World Cup overachievers New Zealand—before suffering a huge defeat to West Indies on Monday night. They boast the tournament’s highest run-getter, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, and the highest wicket-taker, Fazalhaq Farooqi, in the league phase, but Thursday is a fresh start and Rashid Khan will know the magnitude of the task that lies ahead of his team.

All four of Afghanistan’s Group C matches were under lights, while India played their three matches in New York—the fourth against Canada in Fort Lauderdale was abandoned—in the morning. India are thus better equipped for the rigours of a morning start. The switch from night games to a day encounter is a lot easier than the other way around, and therefore, Afghanistan won’t be seriously handicapped, even if they had only one training session on Wednesday morning to get used to the change.

Afghanistan head coach Jonathan Trott with all-rounder Mohammad Nabi yesterday. Pic/Getty ImagesAfghanistan head coach Jonathan Trott with all-rounder Mohammad Nabi yesterday. Pic/Getty Images

NY’s two-paced surfaces

India were prevented from hitting peak form by the two-paced, uneven surfaces in New York. The track here will be better for batting, without a doubt, though how batter-friendly remains to be seen. The practice surfaces didn’t have a lot of pace and there was a smidgeon of turn, but the batters could already trust them, unlike the ones in New York, so an improvement in individual and collective scores is certainly on the cards.

Also Read: Key highlights from the second week of the ICC T20 World Cup

Afghanistan have graduated from a dynamic, flair-packed bunch to a more consistent outfit that has imbibed greater situational awareness. They will need every aorta of consistency and innate courage if they are to keep pace with the world’s top-ranked side, which seems to have all bases covered. India have Bangladesh and Australia to contend with in their two remaining Group 1 fixtures and if they put it past the Afghans, they will believe they have a foot in the knockout semi-finals.

India went in with an unchanged XI in the three New York outings, but will seriously consider summoning the left-arm wrist-spin of Kuldeep Yadav. Who will go out is the big question—will it be one of pacers Mohammed Siraj or Arshdeep Singh, or will they sacrifice a batting option by leaving out either Ravindra Jadeja or Axar Patel? A tough choice either way, but Rohit and Rahul Dravid have shown during their stints together that they aren’t loath to making difficult decisions.
Form and pedigree point to India, but everyone knows the perils of taking Afghanistan lightly.

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