“It will be interesting to see how Afghanistan spinners fare in their maiden Test encounter. They should not be written off for sure and India can only afford to underestimate them at their own peril”
Afghanistan are all set to script history by embracing Test cricket on June 14 against India in Bengaluru. It’s a big achievement for the constantly developing side to make it to the pinnacle of cricket – Test cricket. It’s an honour and at the same time a massive challenge for any team to play their first ever Test match against the top side in their own den. Yes, India are the topmost ranked side in ICC Test rankings and have been an unstoppable force at home.
The talk of the town so far has been related to Afghanistan spinners. They do have immense options to pick from and a fine aura of impactful players, but one shouldn’t forget they are yet to be tested in the longer format of the game. It is no doubt that this bowling attack has potential and a long way to go, but inexperience would get the better of them against the Indian giants. One may not be wrong in saying that they might do well against Indian batsmen as they have had issues against the spin lately, but the hosts will be a tough nut to crack as a unit. India start this game as overwhelming favourites.
Afghanistan’s Test squad consists of many spinners, and they have done that keeping in mind the spinner-friendly Indian conditions. The good thing for them is that they have an immense variety in their spin department, every bowler is unique in their own way. In Rashid, they have a leg-spinner while Mujeeb is widely-reckoned as the mystery spinner. Zahir is the chinaman bowler while Amir Hamza bowls left-arm orthodox spin. Nabi and Rahmat can also put in the hard yards and have been handy all-rounders.
Afghanistan does have the potential, but do they know how to bowl in a five-day format? How well will their bowlers adapt? Only time will unveil the mystery. Also, one needs to realise that there is a fine line between confidence and over-confidence, Afghanistan does look confident, but it’s important they don’t get carried away.
Afghanistan captain, Asghar Stanikzai spoke to ESPNCricinfo about his side’s dominating spin attack and reckoned that they had a better attack than India. “The whole world knows (we have very good spinners in) Rashid Khan, Mujeeb (Ur Rahman), (Mohammad) Nabi, Rahmat (Shah), Zahir (Khan). In Afghanistan, the brilliant thing is that a lot of young talent that is coming through are spinners, because they all follow Rashid, they follow Nabi, so because of that our spin department is very strong from below. In my opinion, we have good spinners, better spinners than India.”
Stanikzai is confident about his side, the likes of Rashid, Mujeeb, Zahir have proved themselves in the shorter format, but many of them are they are yet to replicate their magical performance in First-Class cricket. Talking about the experience in First-Class games, Rashid has played 4 games while Rahmat is the highest with 13 under his belt. Zahir Khan has featured in 7 while Amir Hamza has played 12 games. Mujeeb is yet to play a First-Class game though.
Indian spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, on the other hand, are ranked fifth and fourth respectively in ICC Test bowlers rankings. Not to forget, Kuldeep Yadav has been hogging headlines constantly with his wily spin bowling in Test cricket. Ashwin and Jadeja have hunted down best of the batting line-ups at home in the recent times. Afghanistan bowlers might trouble Indian batsmen, but in my opinion, saying that they are better than Indian spinners would be a bit too early. Indian spinners are proven match-winners in this format and Afghanistan have a long way to go.
Also, what is the guarantee that Rashid and Co. will be equally effective with the red ball? They have done well in shorter formats, especially Rashid. But this is also the game where batsmen often give more chances in a bid to garner runs. They attack more, which increases the chances of a dismissal. But Test cricket is totally different, it is called Test for a reason. Here a bowler has to earn his wicket as the batsmen are constantly trying to stay alive at the crease and spend as much time as possible. The lengths that might work in shorter formats might not work here. In saying so, not a single question is being raised over Afghsinstani spinners’ ability, but Test cricket is a different ball game altogether.
It will be interesting to see how Afghanistan spinners fare in their maiden Test encounter. They should not be written off for sure and India can only afford to underestimate them at their own peril. But saying that they are better as compared to India would be a little early. They might have the potential to develop into a dominant bowling attack, but need to prove themselves and Bangalore would be a great platform to commence their Test journey. The stage is set for a historic Test and Afghanistan would be banking heavily on their spinners to get the job done in their maiden Test voyage. It’s very unlikely that Afghanistan can create an upset like Ireland did in their first ever test match against Pakistan, but the possibility is always there.