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June 15,2018

The rising Afghans

Khurram Mahmood

Last summer, the International Cricket Council (ICC) granted Ireland and Afghanistan Test status. After that the number of Test-playing countries reached 12. These are the first admissions since Bangladesh get Test status in 2000.

Both teams have proved with their performance that they deserve to get ICC’s full membership.The ICC currently has 105 members under three categories: Full Members, Associate Members, and Affiliate Members.

In the highest category, there are 12 Full Members. The 2nd category has 37 Associate Members and the lowest category has 56 Affiliate Members.Ireland played their first Test against Pakistan last month that was won by the Green-shirts.

Afghanistan’s first Test against India is being played at Bengaluru. There is no comparison. India with 521 Test matches are way ahead. They are especially stronger when playing in their own country.

Afghanistan whitewashed Bangladesh in the three-match Twenty20 series recently. Delighted Afghanistan skipper Asghar Stanikzai said that for a nation like Afghanistan it was a huge and remarkable achievement, but he admitted that the job was half done and would be completed if they performed well against India in their first-ever Test.

After remarkable performances in the limited-overs formats, Afghanistan must prove they can stand the stress of the longest version of the game.Even in the absence of Captain Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Bhuveneshwar Kumar, Jasprint Bumrah, India are the favourites.

Bengaluru is one of India’s favourite venue. The last Test there was played between India and Australia, on a dry and turning track. The hosts beat the Aussies and levelled the series in a thriller. Spinners claimed 27 of the 40 wickets.

Asghar has claimed that Afghanistan’s spinners are better than those of India. “The whole world knows that we have very good spinners Rashid Khan, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Mohammad Nabi, Rahmat Shah and Zahir Khan,” he said.

Rashid Khan performed very well in the 11th edition of Indian Premier League (IPL) and against Bangladesh recently. Former Australian batsman Dean Jones praised Rashid, saying he was the best leg-spinner in the world and could spin the ball both ways.

In March, 19-year-old Rashid became the fastest bowler to reach 100 ODI wickets. He is currently the world’s top-ranked Twenty20 bowler.India must be worried that they have to play on a spin track in Bangalore. On a turning wicket, Rashid could be more dangerous than any other spinner.But on the other hand, Indian spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have much experience. They have taken 476 Test wickets.

It would be better for India to prepare a seaming track as their fast bowlers are much better and more experienced than the visitors. Afghanistan’s fast bowling attack is comparatively weaker. Dawlat Zadran is injured and Shapoor Zadran is not in the squad.

Currently Afghanistan are ranked 8th in International Twenty20 cricket ahead of four full members, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Ireland.The Afghanistan Cricket Board was formed in 1995 and became an Affiliate Member of the ICC in 2001. It was awarded Associate Member status in 2013 and finally got Full Membership in June 2017.

They won their first tournament in 2007, sharing the ACC Twenty20 Cup with Oman after the two tied in the final.They began their qualifying campaign for the 2011 World Cup in Jersey in 2008, winning Division Five of the World Cricket League. They finished third in the ACC Trophy Elite tournament, and also won a second successive WCL tournament, Division Four in Tanzania later in the year.

In the 2011 Cricket World Cup qualifying tournament, Afghanistan failed to progress to the World Cup, but earned ODI status for four years.Afghanistan qualified for 2012 ICC World Twenty20 held in Sri Lanka as the runners up of the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier and joined India and England in the group stage.

Afghanistan beat Kenya to finish second in the WCL Championship in October 2013 and qualified for the 2015 Cricket World Cup.On November 24, 2013, Afghanistan beat Kenya to qualify for the 2014 Twenty20 World Cup.

With nine wins in 14 matches Afghanistan finished second in the World Cricket League Championship and joined Ireland as the second Associate team in the 2015 World Cup.In February 2015, Afghanistan won their first Cricket World Cup match - against Scotland by one wicket. They also beat West Indies in the final group match of the tournament.

Afghanistan played their first ODI against a Full Member in February 2012 when they played against Pakistan at Sharjah. Afghanistan also took on Australia Cricket Team in an ODI at Sharjah in August 2012.

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