Losses in their opening two matches against Pakistan and New Zealand in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup has put Virat Kohli and boys in a critical situation. The Men in Blue will square off against Afghanistan on Wednesday with their backs against the wall. Only a win can help India stay alive, mathematically, in the showpiece event.
It will be a change in venue for India after playing both their opening games at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium as they will play Afghanistan at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Having faced the wrath of the fans as well for below-par performances so far, it will also be about pride for Kohli’s men as they play under his leadership in the T20 format for the last time in this tournament.
But it won’t be easy as Afghanistan have looked good and Team India face an uphill task to reach the semifinal stages. They need to first win their remaining matches and then they would be hoping for some results to go in their favour. A win against Afghanistan, Namibia, and Scotland will not be enough, Team India needs to register comprehensive wins as the net run rate might come into play as well.
However, before thinking about net run-rate, the team needs to raise the bar in terms of their performances. Team India’s batting has left a lot to be desired and it needs to be seen how they perform in a do-or-die encounter against Afghanistan.
For the match against New Zealand, India decided to change its opening partnership as Ishan Kishan partnered KL Rahul with Rohit Sharma coming in at number three and skipper Virat Kohli dropping at number four. However, this chop and change did not pay any dividend as all four batters were dismissed cheaply.
Skipper Kohli admitted after the match that his side was not brave enough with the bat in hand. Now, one has to see whether they are liberated enough to go hell for leather from ball number one against Afghanistan. However, this will not be easy looking at the spin attack of Afghanistan comprising Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, and Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, and Ravindra Jadeja also need to raise their performances and even though they have the experience of playing on the UAE pitches, they have not shown anything significant with the bat. When the chips have been down, the now experienced trio has failed to elevate their performance to help the team.
Jasprit Bumrah was the only bright spot with the ball in hand against New Zealand while the others disappointed. It is high time that the management looks past Varun Chakravarthy as clearly his mystery has been unravelled. The experience of Ravichandran Ashwin needs to be considered and he could come into the playing XI.
Talking about Afghanistan, if they end up winning against India, their road to the semi-finals will become more clear. The game plan of Afghanistan has been to bat first and give their bowling attack runs to play with.
The matchup between India and Afghanistan would be interesting, as India need a win to stay alive while a win will see Nabi’s team break new grounds as they have continued to rise on the cricketing ladder. But as is the case with the T20 format, it will all boil down to how the teams execute their skills on the day.
Squads: India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Ishan Kishan, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Rahul Chahar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Varun Chakravarthy, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami.
Afghanistan: Hazratullah Zazai, Mohammad Shahzad(wk), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Asghar Afghan, Karim Janat, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi (c), Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Naveen-ul-Haq, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fareed Ahmad, Hamid Hassan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Usman Ghani. (ANI)