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Experiments in focus as India meet Afghanistan.

Saturday, June 22, 2019 • Common Sport News Comments

Somehow, this particular fixture has fallen right in the middle of the schedule for India. This will not only be a chance to experiment before India's upcoming fixtures against an unpredictable West Indies, home team and the new wave England, and a fast-growing Bangladesh.

Being one of only two unbeaten sides yet, there couldn't be a better opportunity to test their reserves. Rishabh Pant has finally realized his World Cup dream, even as Shikhar Dhawan's has come crashing down, but can Pant storm into the XI?
Should Vijay Shankar, who was hit on the toe by a Jasprit Bumrah yorker, not recover, it becomes a no-brainer. However, if Vijay is fit, leaving him out after a creditable outing against Pakistan could play on his confidence. Nevertheless, it's a healthy debate for the team management to have. 

Virat Kohli could just field an unchanged side. He could put an end to the pre-match buzz and stick to his tried-and-tested formula. India's bowling looks strong whenever the wrist spinners fire, so much so that even the absence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar doesn't seem such a big deal currently. With Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav and Vijay capable of bowling, suddenly a batting line-up that couldn't bowl now is bursting at its seam with bowling potential. Throw in Mohammed Shami into the mix along with Bumrah and it's as formidable a bowling force as you could get.

Afghanistan's World Cup campaign is in a mess to the extent of a totally unexpected level in competitiveness even after becoming a full member. The world has moved on from the refugee-camp narrative and what they did at the World Cricket League Division Five a decade ago has no bearing now. They are a full member, who brought with them the promise of a few upsets in the World Cup, especially after competing tooth and nail at the Asia Cup last year including a famous tied game vs India at Dubai. 

India will make one forced change, with Shami set to replace the injured Bhuvneshwar.

India (probable) 1 KL Rahul, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Vijay Shankar, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Kuldeep Yadav, 9 Yuzvendra Chahal, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Amidst a lot of internal and external chaos, this could be the probable XI of Afganistan.

Afghanistan (probable) 1 Noor Ali Zadran, 2 Gulbadin Naib (capt), 3 Rahmat Shah, 4 Hashmatullah Shahidi, 5 Asghar Afghan, 6 Mohammad Nabi, 7 Rashid Khan, 8 Ikram Ali Khil, 9 Aftab Alam 10, Dawlat Zadran, 11 Mujeeb Ur Rahman

It's expected to be a cracker of a track. The average first innings score in the last five completed ODIs here is 286. England and Pakistan aggregated 734 runs during a bilateral series match in May. England walloped their 213 target against West Indies in just 33.1 overs.

By dimensions, the ground isn't the biggest. The fact that South Africa and India scored 457 runs early two weeks ago was down to simply the quality of Kagiso Rabada and India's pace unit. Presuming India will win the match, it will become India's 50th win in the ICC Cricket World Cup. 

Shami's average of 17.3 in the World Cup is the best among Indian bowlers to have picked up at least 10 wickets in the competition. Najibullah is the only Afghanistan player to average above 50 and strikes at above 100 in ODIs this year.

- Kumaran Kumanan

Image courtesy: ICC BCCI  

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