Afghanistan are Test debutants. But it will all change in the coming month. A key challenge awaits them in June as they take to Virat Kohli-land in the absence of the familiar presence of Kohli himself. So in the absence of Kohli, it was being debated, who would’ve led the Indian side? The question kept fans and experts guessing until the new leaders’ name was revealed a few hours ago on May 7.
It has been reported that Ajinkya Rahane shall be leading Team India for the five enthralling days of Test cricket that are in store in June. Since captain Virat Kohli is away on overseas country duties, having only just signed up with Surrey, the new makeshift leader, will be expected to hold fort against a bowling-heavy Afghanistan.
This is both emphatic for Rahane’s Test career as well as informing of the direction it may be taking. Having had not the best of times with the bat in the last few outcomes, including South Africa series, the Afghanistan Test, one-off that it may be, will offer one of India’s reliant batsmen to galvanise his recent record. Yet, at the same time it will also open a window of opportunities for Afghanistan. Lest it be forgotten that for the newly instituted cricketing unit, it’s a watershed moment.
Although fans, it could be said, are still likely be coping with the loss of a great prospect. That of seeing an in-form and very dangerous Virat Kohli taking on a finely balanced bowling attack in the form of Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Mujeeb and the likes. Although Afghanistan, who will perhaps enter their first ever Test battle with a great mental relief of there being no Kohli would be also expected to pull out a few surprises. It goes without saying that the handy experience some of their players are gaining in the IPL will ascertain itself against one of the most potent Test cricket sides in modern times.
The way Virat Kohli has shaped up the Test unit in the aftermath of Kumble’s exit as coach and Dhoni’s abdication and eventual retirement pays testimony to a young belligerent side. A side that is now engaged in a battle for ascendency in a format considered to be a litmus test for gauging true test of a talent. Having nearly exerted their weight against South Africa and in South Africa, the young side under Rahane will be raring to welcome Afghanistan into Test cricket by inflicting the blow of a memorable defeat. However, for that to happen, the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashwin (if he’s picked), Ishant Sharma (probable eleven) will have to come good against a batting attack that will perhaps be missing customary opening batsman, Mohammad Shahzad.
What has also added confidence to India’s hopes against Afghanistan is the news that Cheteshwar Pujara will most likely feature in the Test, having just wrapped up his stint with Yorkshire. However, the technically sound right hander didn’t have the greatest of outings in England recently. That said, having closed on nearly a 1000 runs in India’s previous home season, there’s little doubt about the no.3’s abilities. For now, the pressure may just be on first timers Afghanistan- again a side who one may not want to take lightly.