• Thursday, July 18, 2024

CRICKET

T20 WC: India take on ‘dangerous’ Afghanistan in Super Eight game

India advanced to the Super Eight, remaining unbeaten in the initial pool phase.

India advanced to the Super Eight, remaining unbeaten in the initial pool phase. (Photo: Getty)

By: EasternEye

India coach Rahul Dravid emphasised the importance of not underestimating Afghanistan as India prepares for their second-round opener in the T20 World Cup in Barbados on Thursday.

India advanced to the Super Eight, remaining unbeaten in the initial pool phase.

Afghanistan also showcased their potential as semi-finalists. Despite a heavy 104-run defeat by West Indies in St Lucia, where Nicholas Pooran scored 98, Afghanistan had already qualified for the Super Eights.

Afghanistan previously defeated New Zealand by 84 runs in the competition. India had narrowly defeated Afghanistan in Bengaluru in January after two Super Overs, highlighting the challenge they pose.

“We know Afghanistan is a very dangerous team in this format of the game,” Dravid said in a pre-match press conference on Wednesday. “They have shown that by their performances in this World Cup. They might not have a lot of international experience in the other formats of the game, but a lot of their players do play in a lot of T20 leagues, more than in fact some of our players do. So, certainly in this format they are not a team to be taken lightly. They are deservedly in the Super Eights.”

Afghanistan’s success has been significantly due to their spin bowling, with Rashid Khan leading the attack, taking four wickets for 17 runs against New Zealand in Guyana.

In the same match, left-arm quick Fazalhaq Farooqi also took 4-17, dismissing New Zealand for 75.

“They have a good bowling attack all round,” Dravid said. “Even their two pacers are quite experienced. Farooqi and Naveen-ul-Haq have both played a lot of cricket, they both swing the ball as well. I think their bowlers are some of the most sought-after bowlers in this format across the world. We understand that is going to pose a challenge to us and we are going to have to play well to counter that.”

Virat Kohli will aim to return to form after a lean period, while left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav eagerly awaits his chance as India, the title favorites, face Afghanistan in their opening Super 8 fixture.

The primary discussion revolves around India’s team combination. Will they stick with the successful group stage lineup or bring in Kuldeep at the expense of a pacer?

Skipper Rohit Sharma initially expressed his desire to include all four all-rounders—Hardik Pandya, Shivam Dube, Axar Patel, and Ravindra Jadeja. This strategy worked well in New York’s bowler-friendly conditions, and Sharma might retain this combination, which extends batting to number 8. Dropping either Mohammed Siraj or Arshdeep Singh could make room for Kuldeep, with Siraj more likely to be benched. Recent practice sessions suggest the pitch might favor spinners, strengthening Kuldeep’s case. Pacers could still benefit from the Kensington Oval’s breeze, aiding swing during the powerplay.

All eyes will be on Kohli, who has yet to score in double digits this tournament. His aggressive strategy didn’t pay off in New York, but he is expected to shine on the Caribbean wickets. Suryakumar Yadav’s return to form against the USA, although not in his usual style, has boosted his confidence. Hardik Pandya also seeks runs to complement his exceptional bowling. Arshdeep Singh’s growing confidence alongside Jasprit Bumrah is notable.

Afghanistan, rebounding from a loss to the West Indies, relies on captain Rashid Khan’s leadership and the prowess of left-arm pacer Fazalhaq Farooqi, the tournament’s leading wicket-taker.

In-form openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran are crucial to Afghanistan’s chances.

Squads:

India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Hardik Pandya, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Arshdeep Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Siraj.

Afghanistan: Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wicketkeeper), Ibrahim Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Azmatullah Omarzai, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Karim Janat, Rashid Khan (captain), Noor Ahmad, Naveen-ul-Haq, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Hazratullah Zazai, Fareed Ahmad Malik, Mohammad Ishaq, Nangeyalia Kharote.

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