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The Hindu
The Hindu
N. Sudarshan

IND vs AFG | India will look to fine tune winning combination ahead of World Cup

Memories are short. More so in Indian cricket. In under two months since the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup ended, India has played nine T20Is in preparation for the summer’s T20 World Cup in the United States of America and the Caribbean. But with a gargantuan IPL season ahead of us, one wonders how much of the action in the bilateral contests will be remembered and how much forgotten.

Nonetheless, these internationals would have helped the think-tank led by Rahul Dravid and Rohit Sharma try out different players, identify personnel for specific roles and take steps towards zeroing in on a winning combination ahead of the marquee competition. Wednesday’s final T20I of the three-match series between India and Afghanistan at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium will be the last such exercise.

It helps that unlike football, cricket doesn’t involve as many synchronous movements, and players are often rotated without disturbing the overall balance. One such beneficiary has been southpaw Shivam Dube, who has scored consecutive unbeaten half-centuries, both of them match-winning and at a strike-rate in excess of 150.

So much so that, an enthusiastic scribe even asked Afghanistan coach Jonathan Trott in the pre-match briefing if Dube will usurp the injured Hardik Pandya’s place. Trott dead-batted the question and said that it wasn’t his problem. Dravid and Rohit wouldn’t mind either, for the very purpose of such tourneys is to shore up the team’s reserves.

In the first two matches against Afghanistan, India has had different top-orders, with only Rohit being the constant. Shubman Gill, Tilak Varma, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Virat Kohli have played a match each and it remains to be seen which set of three batters takes to the field in the Garden City.

India’s Yashasvi Jaiswal and Rahul Dravid at training ahead of the third T20 match between India and Afghanistan. (Source: K. MURALI KUMAR)

The bowling line-up wears a settled look, with Arshdeep Singh, Mukesh Kumar, Ravi Bishnoi, Axar Patel and Washington Sundar turning out both in Mohali and Indore. Avesh Khan and Kuldeep Yadav, who have warmed the benches, will hope for a look-in, so will wicket-keeper bat Sanju Samson in place of Jitesh Sharma.

Afghanistan, on the other hand, has been severely hampered by the absence of the talismanic spinner Rashid Khan. Its batting has been middling, with nearly every batter being among the runs but the bunch not firing in unison.

Afghanistan Head Coach Jonathan Trott shares his insights with the team. (Source: K. MURALI KUMAR)

But the nation, as it showed in the World Cup, is no longer just a banana skin, but an accomplished side capable of beating the best. If it can serve a reminder against India, the fans will have their evening’s worth.

The teams (from):

India: Rohit Sharma (Capt.), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh, Jitesh Sharma, Sanju Samson, Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar, Axar Patel, Ravi Bishnoi, Kuldeep Yadav, Arshdeep Singh, Avesh Khan and Mukesh Kumar.

Afghanistan: Ibrahim Zadran (Capt.), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Ikram Alikhil, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Karim Janat, Azmatullah Omarzai, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Fareed Ahmad, Naveen Ul Haq, Noor Ahmad, Mohammad Saleem, Qais Ahmad and Gulbadin Naib.

Umpires: J.R. Madanagopal and Virender Sharma; TV Umpire: Rohan Pandit; Fourth Umpire: M. Krishnadas.

Match begins at 7 p.m.

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