India’s march in the Asia Cup 2018 has been a commendable effort with their bowling doing a vigilant task in order to get them going.
Post the scare against Hong Kong, the Indian bowling came out all guns blazing against both Pakistan and now Bangladesh. So far both these sides didn’t manage to challenge India to gain any sort of ascendancy. Will Afghanistan come and do the job of troubling India?
The Afghans have been excellent in the UAE and the manner in which they defeated both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh shows their ammunition in this format is strong.
Calculated Afghans know what they are doing and in this phase, the bunch of talented cricketers are enjoying playing the game. What makes them delightful to watch is the blend of experience and youth all coming together in tandem.
India will be knowing that perhaps their biggest test could be an in-form Afghanistan team, who hasn’t hidden in any sort of comfort zone. They are out to a job here and that has been done extremely well so far. 20-year-old Rashid Khan has inspired the team to great lengths and they look like an able opponent for in-form Team India in the hot and humid conditions in the UAE.
The two sides have both been in striking form in ODIs and that what make them look ominous at the moment. Afghan’s strength cannot be overlooked and having a classy bowling unit means that the Indian batting will face their sternest test so far. The two teams meet on Tuesday, September 25.
So what makes this Afghan side such a tremendous force? Can they outwit Rohit Sharma’s men? Here we decode the possibilities.
Afghans have played excellent ODI cricket
The Asian rising team are coming off an excellent run in limited-overs cricket. Since the last Asia Cup in Bangladesh in 2016, Afghanistan has won a staggering six out of their 10 ODI series. In the same period, they have drawn two and lost two. Although the big guns haven’t been a part of this journey, the teams that were hunted are no baby sides either.
The teams they overcame during this sunny period include Scotland, Zimbabwe and Ireland, in addition to the West Indies, whom they defeated in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 to lift the trophy. And this has rubbed off well on their shoulders. They are a spirited bunch of players who are growing from strength to strength.
After the 2015 World Cup, Afghanistan beat Zimbabwe twice in three-match series, both in Zimbabwe as well as in the UAE. In recent times, the side also beat Ireland 2-1 in a three-match ODI series in Ireland. So playing solid cricket against Sri Lanka and then Bangladesh in this tourney was no surprise.
Afghan spinners have been a world class unit
The side is extremely settled at the moment and the players know their roles and responsibilities in and out. It looks almost planned on how they do their business. Knowing that the pitches in UAE assist spin bowlers, they have handled each of their three spinners perfectly. If Mujeeb Ur Rahman comes in and bowls with the new ball, then the superstar Rashid comes in late to run through the middle overs.
The idea here is to build the pressure with the dot balls Rashid is capable of extracting. The ploy has worked well. Mohammad Nabi has been an able support bowler and his experience has been telling. This spin-bowling unit has turned their game into champion stuff and the trio can be regarded as the top entities at the moment alongside India’s wrist spinners.
Afghanistan’s remarkable returns in limited-overs cricket have largely been down to the spinners. The trio has troubled batsmen time and again with their variations. Each with a different action and component has spiced up what’s what’s on offer.
Their wickets column and economy rates go hand in hand. Against Bangladesh on Thursday, the trio bowled a total of 117 dot balls between them. The return was extraordinary with 5 wickets shared. Against Sri Lanka, they bowled 96 dots balls and snapped 6 wickets.
Rashid is an ODI great
He is a real legend in the making. 112 wickets from 49 matches make Rashid a real superstar for the future who could go on to create many records. Perhaps, he is the biggest threat to India’s middle order, who haven’t yet played quality spin bowling in this tournament.
That will make the contest between bat and ball exciting. Indian batsmen are generally strong players of spin in the subcontinent. Rashid will come hard at them and challenge them throughout. Rashid’s remarkable average of 14.06 is dream stuff at the moment.
Also a reliable lower-order hitter, Khan showed his heroics with the bat against the Tigers when he smashed a 37-ball 52*, in a knock that included eight fours and a six. He dug his side out from a hole and helped them seal victory on his birthday.
Earlier in the year, he became the fastest to take 100 wickets in ODIs.
India versus Afghanistan could be a delight
India’s spin attack is strong too after Ravindra Jadeja joined the duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yzvendra Chahal. So altogether we will witness 6 spinners in action when these two sides meet. Therefore, we must be prepared for the match of the tournament.
The anticipation regarding the India and Pakistan duel fell flat. Perhaps Afghans, who have already spiced up the tournament, can come and continue in the same vein against India. Altogether the manner in which Afghans have responded in each of the three games in this tourney, we could see them book a berth in the finale.
Their consistency could help them in this plight. The whole cricket fraternity needs to be celebrating with Afghanistan for all that they have overcome over the years. Now with the side standing tall with some of the best teams, it’s a contribution to many reasons for us to go gaga about them and believe in their journey.