India begin their last T20 series before they head to the Caribbean for the T20 World Cup on Thursday when Afghanistan are the visitors for three matches, the first of which comes from the regular stop off in Mohali.
India will look to fine tune their squad in this series and ensure that unless there is a surprise from the IPL that they know who they want to take to the Caribbean. Afghanistan begin their preparation for that event in this series.
In terms of personnel, India still aren’t completely serious about this format of the game at the minute but that is largely because their stars pick themselves and they need to find out who the best reserves will be for the T20 World Cup. They are slightly more serious than we saw against South Africa and Australia recently because Rohit Sharma is in the squad but a number of big players continue to be rested ahead of a Test series with England later in the month.
In recent T20 matches we have seen India much stronger with the bat than the ball. I think that is fair enough because when they get to the Caribbean they are going to be playing on smaller grounds where the emphasis will be on clearing the ropes. Their bowling hasn’t been terrible but these days pitches are so good you only need to miss by a little bit and you are going the distance. This is the last chance for players to force their way into the main tournament in an Indian shirt.
A few months on from probably being one of the bigger success stories at the 50 over World Cup, Afghanistan return to India looking to showcase their talents ahead of the 20 over competition. If they can take the form they had into that tournament and bottle it for the next six months they will be a threat in the Caribbean but you do sense that at present 50 over cricket suits them more. They have the chance here to prove that isn’t the case.
This is also a chance for a number of their bowlers to show that they can come up with the goods without Rashid Khan. Afghanistan, as most teams that have Rashid Khan in their ranks are, are reliant on Rashid in T20 cricket but his injury throws up the chance for others to show that they can be the main man in his absence. What I want to see from Afghanistan is that they have the batting firepower to be a threat when the World Cup comes along.
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Rohit Sharma returns to lead the Indian side into battle in this match but India have chosen to rest the likes of Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Siraj while Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya are both out injured.
Afghanistan will be without Rashid Khan for this series as he still hasn’t recovered from his back issues. Qais Ahmad is likely to fill the hole left by him. Gulbadin Naib and Karim Janat look to be battling for one spot.
It will be interesting to see what sort of challenge Afghanistan put up here but they might be getting India at the right time in terms of facing a second string bowling unit, one which shouldn’t cause their batters too many issues. The same could probably be said for India too. The one time you would want to face Afghanistan is when there is no Rashid Khan around so both sides should fancy their chances of going well in this match.
I think we are going to get some runs in this match. Mohali is usually a good batting track and the outfield here is often lightning fast. We have a run line of 332.5 for this match which feels a little on the low side, especially if India bat first. They could do a bit of a job on this weakened Afghanistan attack but I would expect Afghanistan to score well in this one on a good pitch. They don’t have a lot to lose. There have been six T20Is on this ground and four of them had a first innings score of 180 or more. With the trend of run scoring increasing I expect this line to be covered.
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