World Cup 2023: India ready for Afghan spin test

- October 10, 2023
| By : Khurram Habib |

India’s second match after the win over Australia will require batsmen to tackle the spin attack of Afghanistan on what will likely be a batting surface again

From the Chennai pitch, where stroke-play was difficult and batting required hard grind, India travelled an aerial distance of over 1700 kilometres to land in Delhi, where the pitch at Ferozeshah Kotla ground witnessed a World Cup record score only on Saturday with South Africa pounding Sri Lanka.

India will face Afghanistan on Wednesday in their second match of the tournament after winning their opener against Australia by six wickets on Sunday.

“The biggest advantage of this team is that we have the personnel to play in any condition,” said India’s batting coach Vikram Rathore to the media on Tuesday, the eve of the encounter, after he was asked about possible changes to the squad for the upcoming match.

The entire Indian team did not turn up for practice on Tuesday with last match’s heroes Virat Kohli and KL Rahul missing. Vice-captain Hardik Pandya also did not attend practice, nor did the spin duo R Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav, both of who shared three Australian wickets in the first game.

Virat Kohli pavilion a day before the India-Afghanistan match.(Photo: Khurram Habib)

However, skipper Rohit Sharma, Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer who all failed and returned with ducks against the Aussies faced the local bowlers in the nets.

Rathore said that despite Iyer’s failure, the team has faith in him.

“He has done well at No. 4,” he added.

Iyer played an irresponsible shot to get out which put India in further trouble against Australia after the loss of both the openers.

The toss-up will be between him and Suryakumar Yadav, who too had a good hit at the nets.

But Rathore’s words suggest that Iyer may get another shot.

India will most likely continue to open with Kishan in the absence of Shubman Gill, who is in Chennai, recuperating from a bout of dengue that has ruled him out of these two matches and may also rule him out of the match against Pakistan in Ahmedabad on the coming Saturday.

“Gill is recovering well in Chennai. He was admitted to hospital but is back in the hotel,” added Rathore.

India’s challenge on Wednesday will be the quality spin attack of Afghanistan, something Australia lacked, and it will be a relief for the home batsmen that the pitch won’t be aiding the spinners like the one in Chennai.

A fan of Virat Kohli outside the Arun Jaitley Stadium.(Photo: Khurram Habib)

Afghanistan lost their first game to Bangladesh by six wickets in Dharamsala.

The fact that the batting let them down was not lost on skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi

“We lost the first game against Bangladesh. And it doesn’t mean that we are not a good team,” he told the media.

“We have a good spin bowling attack, but only one department can’t win you games. You have to score runs for that, to win the game. Also in the Bangladesh game, we didn’t bat well.”

The Afghans are being mentored by former India captain Ajay Jadeja.

Shahidi says that Jadeja is focussing on the mental aspects more.

“As a mentor, he always talks about how to deal with pressure, how to play against these [big] teams. It’s not about too much technique,” added Shahidi who added that they won’t daunted by the Indian spin attack that had caught Australian batsmen in a web the other day.

“We play better spinners in the net sessions. Like if you see Rashid, Nabi, Noor and Mujeeb, we play them every day. So, I think our team is far better in playing spin bowling.”

Afghanistan will likely have quite a decent support in the stands against India unlike other teams as there is a sizeable Afghan community living in Delhi.

The team’s media manager told Patriot that they are expecting Afghan fans.