Sports, Cricket

Beleaguered India up against gritty Afghans


By PTI
Published : 02 Nov 2021 08:37 PM | Updated : 04 Nov 2021 02:24 PM

Senior off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin's inexplicable absence from the playing XI is in focus as India skipper Virat Kohli tries to figure the combination that can bring his team's floundering campaign back on track when it takes on a feisty Afghanistan in the T20 World Cup here on Wednesday.

India's run has been derailed after two crushing defeats against Pakistan and New Zealand and the performance that they have put in is not worthy of a semi-final spot even though mathematics keeps their hopes alive.

Afghanistan have expectedly won their two games against Scotland and Namibia and were in the contest against Pakistan for the better part before Asif Ali took the game away with four sixes in one over.

Read more: Shambolic batting display downs Tigers

In this backdrop, Mohammed Nabi and Rashid Khan would like to use all their might and T20 freelancing experience to add insult to the Indian injury and prolong the nightmare that started on October 24.

For Kohli, in probably his last three matches as T20 captain of India, one would expect some prudent team selections and it starts with the question of repeatedly ignoring a player of Ashwin's calibre.

It is unheard of in world cricket that one of the most decorated players among the current generation has been transformed into a glorified traveller since he last wore the national shirt in June.

However Kohli's decision to not even consider him as an option is something that many in Indian cricket feel, "borders on stubbornness" after Varun Chakravarthy's inability to deliver under pressure proved what experience actually means.

After two bad games, that's exactly what they would want at a new venue (Abu Dhabi).

If Suryakumar Yadav, who is suffering from back spasms, is fit and available, one could possibly find both him and Ishan Kishan playing in the middle-order as the team is hardly getting any tangible benefit from Hardik Pandya's presence.

A contribution of 31 runs in two games from 35 balls is certainly not something that the Indian team expects from its premier finisher. Against Afghanistan, the middle-overs, during which the peerless Rashid Khan operates, will be crucial.

Along with Gulbadin Naib, who bowls wicket-to-wicket steady medium pace with an occasional 'heavy ball', India might want to play those overs with caution. They would look to attack Afghan seamers primarily in their bid to ramp up the scoring.

Kohli would like to chase under lights with dew setting in but if he bats first, a middling score of 145 to 155 could possibly spell trouble in case Shahzad starts finding a few off the middle of his bat. This will be one match where if India wins, they wouldn't get any credit but if they lose, all hell will break loose.

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