T20 World Cup 2024: India eye Afghanistan's scalp

It is likely that India will not meddle with the team combination much
Last Updated : 19 June 2024, 15:05 IST

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Barbados: Afghanistan have never defeated India in a Twenty20 International, but they have come very close. 

This was a few months ago when Afghanistan pushed India to the second Super Over before falling short at the M Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru. Up until that point, India had bested them in the format quite convincingly.

These are signs that the once placeholders, once boys-at-the-men’s-table, are now here as the real deal, and India should be so worried for they run into them in the opening game of the T20 World Cup’s Super Eights on Thursday.

Both sides have three games each in this phase before they stake their claim in the semifinals so every win matters, especially when there is reason to believe that rain could impede the progress of some games. 

This is the ‘wet season’ in the Caribbean, and although there has only been one abandonment in the league stage so far, there have been consistent spells of sharp rain since India arrived here a few days ago.

It’s all rather swimming in comparison to what was laid out for them in the United States of America a week or so ago so that’s comforting, but this is not the time to soak in Barbadian hospitality. India play three games in the next four days in a schedule which left even India skipper Rohit Sharma bemused. 

“Why can’t it be like the 50-over World Cup?! Simple and straight to the point,” he said casually during India’s training session on Tuesday. “This is, yaar, too tiring. But anyway we don’t have a choice, and we don’t have time for complaints. Afghanistan is serious business.”

He’s right. After all, he scored a 69-ball unbeaten 121 in their previous run-in and still only just about managed to get away with the game. 

So, it’s likely that India won’t meddle with the combination much. The only plausible change could come in the form of Kuldeep Yadav coming in for one of the pacers because these pitches are conducive to turn. 

And since it’s the kind of turn that is slow and laborious, the plethora of spinners on the Afghani front, Rashid Khan at the front, will be excited. 

It won’t be easy for India’s batters to play through the line, but then again, they were not able to do that during the US leg so this shouldn’t be too hard. If anything, the consistency in bounce will allow them to feel a bit more at home. 

Afghanistan’s batting is probably their weak link in the contest, but Rahmanullah Gurbaz leads the scoring charts and Ibrahim Zadran is dancing in a purple patch so that mitigates some of those concerns. 

On the Indian side of things, there aren’t too many such concerns. Of course, there is the not-so-insignificant part about execution and adapting to the conditions and so on, but this Indian team is stacked with purpose. 

They have enough talent in their ranks to make changes on the fly and not feel the void. That’s a trait they showcased during the 50-over World Cup too. 

Here’s the thing, though. For all their excellence and flexible combinations, they didn’t fire that one day, on that final day against Australia. There went another title.

That day might be Thursday this time. That won’t mean the end of the road to the title, but it will surely make it harder. That thought alone should guard them from complacency, especially against a team which fights and plays as if there are not enough tomorrows to go around.  

Teams (likely): Teams (likely): India: Rohit Sharma (capt), Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant (wk), Surakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj/ Kuldeep Yadav, Arshdeep Singh. 

Afghanistan: Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Ibrahim Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Azmatullah Omarzai, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Karim Jenat, Rashid Khan (capt), Noor Ahmed, Naveen-ul-Haq, Fazalhaq Farooqi.

Published 19 June 2024, 15:05 IST

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