This is a historic test not only for the 11 Afghani players on the field, but also the 3.47 Crore Afghanis off it. Afghanistan has turned into a full-cricketing nation and this will be their first test match. Even though it is a momentous occasion, Team India would like to get the players in the Test Match Mode before the all-important tour against England. The conditions at England will be different, but at least it would give the players some match practice. India are coming into this series as heavy favourites even without Kohli, Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah. In this blog, I’ll try to predict what XI India will play on 14th June.
1. KL Rahul
There has been a fair amount of debate over which 2 out of KL Rahul, Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan shall be used as openers, but I think KL Rahul should be given a permanent slot in this side. He has been in the best of form in T20 cricket and I expect him to carry it into the longest format of the game. He could be India’s long-term investment and he should be given a chance in ODI cricket too.
2. Murali Vijay
I have chosen him over Shikhar Dhawan because of the consistency factor. He is the old warhorse in this team. Although he has had a slump in form in recent times, I expect him to bounce back. If he doesn’t perform well here and against England, his spot in the team is surely gone.
3. Cheteshwar Pujara
While other Indians were having fun and earning quick money playing in the IPL, Cheteshwar Pujara was toiling hard in the England soil to ensure that he is in the pink of form when his teammates come for the tour. Pujara has always been the reason why India never collapse. Kohli is also a human, he is also prone to failure! But Pujara almost always calms things down and provides the calm in the middle of aggression around him.
4. Ajinkya Rahane (c)
India’s perennial vice-captain gets a chance to lead the side in this one-off test against the Afghans. Rahane is going through a rough patch of bad form and he will hope to get some runs before the all-important England tour. Rahane has Kohli’s big boots to fill and he needs to prove that not only is he a good captain, but also a stable batsman.
5. Karun Nair
You would expect a player who is one of the two only Indian players to have scored a triple century to walk right into the team, but I don’t think he will even get a chance to play after Kohli comes back into the team. But he has got one more opportunity and he will look to make the most of it through making big runs.
6. Dinesh Karthik
‘One man’s loss is another man’s opportunity.’ As Wriddhiman Saha got injured, Dinesh Karthik will now get a chance to make a Test Cricket comeback after 8 years. Karthik has been in rich vein of form in T20 cricket for India and in the IPL so Test Cricket would be a way for him to redeem himself and cement his spot in the Indian team till he retires.
7. Hardik Pandya
Someone like Kuldeep Yadav would be much better in a match on Indian pitches, but I have chosen Hardik Pandya as he needs match practice and a chance to overcome his bad form with respect to batting. He will be needed in England so it’s better to test him out at home. Better safe than sorry.
8. Ravichandran Ashwin
Even though he has failed to impress in recent times, he is currently the most successful Test bowler for India and is also No.4 on the ICC all-rounder’s ranking. On a track like Bangalore and against a team like Afghanistan, his inputs to the game will be received with open arms and he himself will hope to perform well as to ensure that he deserves a permanent spot in the lineup.
9. Ravindra Jadeja
Jadeja is two steps ahead of Ashwin. He is No.2 on the rankings, second only to Shakib Al Hasan. Still, he hasn’t performed up to his expectations and he needs to perform well this match. Spinners will be instrumental in India’s success and Ravindra Jadeja will have to work in sync with Ashwin for India’s spinners to rule the roost.
10. Ishant Sharma
Ishant had also been playing for his county side in England alongside Cheteshwar Pujara. He is easily the most experienced player in the side but he knows that he will have to fight for a place in the side once Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah are back, so he will look to make the most of the opportunity presented to him.
11. Umesh Yadav
Even if Mohammed Shami hadn’t failed the fitness test, and was available, I would’ve still gone with Umesh as the second pacer. He was in scintillating form in the IPL and his bowling with the new bowl was excellent. I expect him to carry this form into Test Cricket as well to win games for his country. Umesh also knows that he will hardly get a chance in the XI once Bhuvi and Bumrah are back, so he’ll have to make a very big impact to secure his place in the side.