Afghanistan will become the 12th nation to play test cricket when they take to the field against India in Bangalore for a one-off game starting on Thursday. It is a long-awaited debut for the Afghans who were granted Full Member and Test status by the ICC last June, and they follows Ireland who made a similar debut against Pakistan last month.
India are the number one ranked test team currently, and although they are missing regular captain Virat Kohli with a neck injury, they still will put out a very strong side under stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane.
Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara, as well as Rahane himself, give their batting depth, whilst, on the bowling side, they can call on the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin, the world’s 4th and 5th ranked Test bowlers, to lead their spin attack.
Afghanistan though are not short of confidence, having just beaten Bangladesh 3 – 0 in a T20 series, and have been preparing hard for this match. They also have a lot of talent in their side, particularly in the bowling department, with their attack led by Rashid Khan, who is the ICC’s top-ranked T20 bowler and second in ODIs, despite the fact that he is only 19 years old, and has played only four first class matches in his life. Supporting him is another 19-year old, left-arm spinner Zahir Khan, who has taken 34 wickets at an average of 13 runs, despite only playing seven matches.
Both, however, are veterans compared to 17-year old Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who starred in this year’s IPL, but has yet to play cricket at first-class level anywhere. However, he already has 35 wickets in ODIs to his name, with a best of 5 – 50 against Zimbabwe earlier this year.
Much will depend on the ability of the Afghan youngsters adapt to red-ball cricket and the longer format of the game. It also remains to be seen how well the Afghan batsmen are able to play against some of the world’s top bowlers. Expect India to win easily, but if Afghanistan are able to acquit themselves well, and gain valuable experience, it will stand them in good stead for the future.