Afghanistan begin their time as a Test playing nation with what looks set to be the sternest of tests against the number one team in the world, India.
For all the optimism around Afghanistan cricket they should not be able to pull off a shock even with Virat Kohli absent for the hosts.
While by all accounts the Afghan bowlers should be able to test India’s batsmen at least for periods of play, it is hard to imagine their top order standing up to India’s top quality bowling.
India are also without frontline seamers Japrit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar who have been rested while Mohammed Shami withdrew from the squad a few days ago after struggling with a hamstring issue.
The hosts are likely to play all three spinners in their squad on a ground that is usually friendly to the slower bowlers, though the wet weather ahead of the Test might change the character of the Chinnaswamy track.
It is unlikely to be a seamers paradise but could bounce more than expected which will suit Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan.
India will look to their strong batting core to counteract the Afghan spin threat with much expected for Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane who will stand in for Kohli who had been made unavailable for the Test as he was set to spend time in England with Surrey before being sidelined by injury.
Dinesh Karthik will come into the Test XI for the first time in eight years with regular keeper Wriddhiman Saha out injured, reward for some superb domestic form.
Skipper Asghar Stanikzai and wicketkeeper batsman Mohammad Shahzad will be tasked with leading Afghanistan with bat in hand as they have done in the Intercontinental Cup while Rahmat Shah has shown himself to be capable at international level.
India expect that their team will beat all comers at home and even without a few regulars should be too strong for the new boys.
Stanikzai, Rashid, Mujeeb, Mohammad Nabi and Shahzad are the only white ball regulars in a squad that will have more than a few fresh faces for those not familiar with associate four-day cricket.
Even with Kohli in the side Pujara has proven to be India’s rock with the bat and the hosts will look to him to occupy the crease and sap Afghanistan of energy and enthusiasm.
Ashwin will be keen to get among the wickets and will be asked to do a job as the leader of the home side’s attack.
Shahzad may be renowned as a white ball player but he could yet prove to be someone who can take the fight to the India bowlers.
Rashid Khan’s quality is undeniable the only question is whether he will adjust to the rigours of the game’s ultimate format.
India squad: Ajinkya Rahane (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, M Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Karun Nair, Dinesh Karthik (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma, Shardul Thakur.
Afghanistan Test squad: Asghar Stanikzai (capt), Javed Ahmadi, Ihsanullah, Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Nasir Jamal, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Afsar Zazai, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Amir Hamza, Sayed Shirzad, Yamin Ahmadzai, Wafadar, Zahir Khan.
Hours of play (local time): 09.30 start, Lunch 11.30-12.10, Tea 14.10-14.30, Close 16.30
Match days: 14-18 June 2018 (5-day match)
Umpires: Chris Gaffaney and Paul Reiffel
TV Umpire: Rod Tucker
Match Referee: Andy Pycroft
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