Having suffered back-to-back defeats in their first two games, India must bounce back with a thumping victory against Afghanistan on Wednesday to keep their slim hopes alive at the T20 World Cup.
A big victory is needed, not only to stay alive in the tournament, but also win back the confidence of the fans, who have ripped into the team after heavy defeats against Pakistan and New Zealand.
India faces a near impossible task of making it to the semi-finals even if they win their last three games by big margins.
India won’t find it easy against Afghanistan, especially with the confidence of their batsmen at an all-time low.
Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan is one of the most sought-after players in T20 leagues across the world and he will be keen to exploit India’s weakness against spin.
Watching how Ish Sodhi had the Indian batsmen dancing to his tune, Rashid must be licking his lips in anticipation at the chance of bowling to the Indians, who are clearly short on ideas on the slow pitches in the UAE.
Indeed, India have a lot of soul-searching to do ahead of the Afghanistan game. It is not clear who is responsible for some of the selection decisions — either it is the combo of captain and coach or whether mentor Mahendra Singh Dhoni has had a big say in things.
The move to promote young Ishan Kishan as opener against New Zealand and dropping Rohit Sharma down to No 3 has received a lot of flak. It won’t be surprising if Rohit is reinstated at the top of the order against Afghanistan, but it remains to be seen if his partner, KL Rahul, retains his place after two successive failures.
Suryakumar Yadav missed the match against New Zealand with ‘back spasms’ and with a two day gap in between the games the team management will need to take a call on his fitness.
Hardik Pandya is surely on the firing line, having struggled with the bat while bowling two lacklustre overs against the Kiwis. But India don’t have a capable enough replacement for him unless they decide to bring in an extra specialist batsman in Suryakumar.
The two spinners — Ravindra Jadeja and Varun Chakravarthy — have both struggled to pick wickets and someone like Ravichandran Ashwin must surely get a chance now.
Leg-spinner Rahul Chahar is another option and could come into the picture, especially since the selectors felt he was better than Yuzvendra Chahal who was ignored despite a superb showing with the ball in the second leg of IPL in the UAE.
Among the fast bowlers, India are likely to persist with Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Shami, who didn’t have much to do after the batsmen failed to put up a challenging total on a good pitch in Dubai.
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