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Sports

AFP
June 14, 2018

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India will not take Afghans lightly: Rahane

BANGALORE: This is it for Afghanistan. Their ten-year journey since beating Jersey in the WCL Division Five final has been studded with miracles and pinnacles: they’ve been in multiple world tournaments, completed historic victories, created potential icons of the game, and will probably have the the largest, most diverse fan base a team has ever had on Test debut.

Not bad for a team that consists of players who used broken helicopters as dressing rooms not long ago. But perhaps their biggest achievement is that not even the No. 1 Test team, playing at home, will take the newcomers lightly.

Afghanistan have won more than they’ve lost in India. In limited-overs cricket, they’ve only lost five out of 18 matches across formats. While those numbers will mean little coming into a different format, what they signify is that at some point over five days, the conditions will be in their favour. And therein lies the danger for India, who have been more susceptible to spin in Tests lately than their traditional reputation would suggest.

Objectively, that is the only big problem India could come up against. They have a formidable batting line-up that is close to collapse-proof at home. With allrounders in Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, and further fortification of the middle order through Dinesh Karthik, the hosts won’t be easy to breach. It’s also likely that the pitch in Bengaluru will be suited to seam, given India’s upcoming England tour, which is another factor that tilts this fixture heavily in their favour.

Objectivity is something Afghanistan have barely bothered about, though. This is their big moment. A first ton, a first five-for, a first draw - even a first win - are all things that may or may not come in Bengaluru. But, two days after Kevin Pietersen’s cry for a more entertaining Test scene, Mohammad Shahzad will be screaming at fielders, jersey probably untucked by the second session, and Rashid Khan’s googly will be more subtle than his sending-off of the victim. Asghar Stanikzai, who led Afghanistan to a World Cup Qualifier title days after an appendicitis surgery, will look more a warrior than ever in Test whites. And in the midst of all these certainties, the newbies will draw standing ovations from the home crowd on more than one occasion. It’s going to be as good as a one-off Test can ever be.

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