Winners and Losers from India’s thumping win over Afghanistan

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Winners and Losers from India’s thumping win over Afghanistan

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SportsCafe Desk

06/16/2018

Though a one-off Test match against Afghanistan wasn’t the best possible warm-up game for India ahead of their England tour, the match did throw some idea about how players could pan in of the overseas series. Here are the winners and losers from the match and what does it mean going forward.

Winners

Ravichandran Ashwin

If there was a tinge of a chance for Kuldeep Yadav to feature in the white jersey for India at the closing stages of India’s tour, it is now all but over. Despite a vibrant start for Kings XI Punjab in IPL last month, Ashwin’s innovative and aggressive captaincy eventually proved to be insufficient for the Virender Sehwag-coached side as Ashwin ended with just 10 wickets from 14 games. However, the spinner looked at his best in the Test against Afghanistan giving the inexperienced batsmen a harrowing time.

Given the spin-friendly track of the M. Chinnaswamy, the likes of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman, or even Mohammad Nabi, were expected to go on a rampage, with their abilities. The skipper did his part well to hand over the ball to Rashid for 35 overs in the first innings. And the fact that he could manage just two wickets and concede a whopping 154 runs, created the conception that the track was flat as a tyre. However, then came Ashwin with his wealth of experience and made the conditions his slave. 

He was introduced as early as 13th over and he sent Asghar Stanikzai packing in only his third ball. It was followed by a skidder that scalped the wicket of Hashmatullah Shahidi as Ashwin leapfrogged Zaheer Khan (311 wickets) to become the fourth highest wicket-taker in Tests for India. He ended up taking five wickets in 19.4 overs in the two consecutive Afghanistan innings conceding just 59 runs, proving the adage right that experience is invaluable. There is no way India are going to experiment with another spinner in England. 

KL Rahul

Widely regarded as one of the unluckiest players in the Indian team, Rahul’s career has been a start-stop one so far. However, at the back of a mind-boglling IPL season, where opened with Chris Gayle and outscored him by miles to end the tournament with 659 runs at a strike rate of 158.41, he has again become the hot favorite to take a top-order place in the Indian team. In the absence of Virat Kohli, he was given the chance to come in the first down position after Shikhar Dhawan returned to the pavilion. And as expected, the stroke-player didn’t waste a second in kick-starting the innings. He scored a quick 54 runs off 64 balls and after his wicket, no one could really get going until Hardik Pandya held the mast in the next morning. With Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteswar Pujara both struggling to make a point coming in the top order boasting averages of 33.22 and 22.20 in England respectively, Rahul has a realistic chance of getting the nod ahead of Pujara given his shambolic performance in the four-day County Championship matches. Rahul is yet to play in England but should be getting chances to prove himself in the three ODIs and T20Is that India would play before the Test series begins. And India are more likely to test him once in the five Tests that they are scheduled to play in England.

Losers

Dinesh Karthik

Coming off a brilliant IPL season, where he captained Kolkata Knight Riders to a third position and also scored almost 500 runs in 16 games, he was expectantly given the first preference when Wriddhiman Saha had to pull out of the one-off Test citing injury. Given Karthik’s experience behind the stumps and tremendous batting form, it was the perfect opportunity for the Tamil Nadu middle order batsman to keep him as a potential option ahead of the England tour. And given the way the Indian openers started, Karthik had the easiest of jobs to come and stay in the middle.

He started in quite an encouraging manner though and apart from a close call off a Rashid Khan delivery, where the review saved Karthik, the batsman had looked untroubled throughout his 22-ball stint. But, as luck would have it, his wicket fell on a ball that was he connected firmly on the on-side and if not for a quick single, which Hardik Pandya had to bail out at the last moment, Karthik looked like settled on the pitch. Whether BCCI would hand him another chance in the longest format still hands in the air but given the fact he enjoys a better batting technique than Saha and India are likely to go with four pacers against the Three Lions, Karthik would still fancy a slight chance behind the stumps.  

Ajinkya Rahane

After a below-par display in South Africa earlier this year, Rahane’s slump further continued in IPL as well. Captaining a lackluster Rajasthan Royals side, Rahane failed to lead the team from the front managing an underwhelming 370 runs in 15 matches. If that wasn’t enough, his performance against Afghanistan remained the most average of all the batsmen India fielded. He was caught leg before wicket by Rashid Khan, which was quite expected given his weakness against spinners. Even though England aren’t expected to probe him much with spin in their conditions, one would surely question Rahane’s abilities ahead of what possibly is India’s most challenging tour in the last few years. And with the likes of KL Rahul and other youngsters knocking on the selectors’ door for one chance to prove their mettle, Rahane could only remain this much complacent.

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