The last time Afghanistan played a Test match - against Bangladesh, two months ago - Mohammad Nabi was an integral part of the side. The 34-year-old spin all-rounder grabbed four wickets in Chittagong to help his side stun a superior Bangladesh team by 224 runs.
That, ironically, was Nabi’s last Test outing.
After donning the whites on just three occasions, he decided to focus solely on white ball cricket, leaving a huge void in the Test set-up.
And as Afghanistan gears up for its one-off ‘home’ Test against the West Indies, Nabi’s absence is being felt.
“We are going to miss him,” Afghanistan’s head coach Lance Klusener said after the training session on Tuesday.
The former South Africa star, who took charge of the team last month, admits that it is not easy to replace a seasoned spin all-rounder, ‘overnight’. “It’s a big loss for us. So, we have to adjust the team accordingly,” Klusener said.
“In Test cricket, a spin all-rounder fills the gap. In India, there is a guy like (Ravindra) Jadeja. Yes, it’s (Nabi’s absence) a loss for us and you can’t replace that overnight. We need to re-balance our team and see how best can we cover the batting, as well as bowling. We are a bit of spin-heavy in the last Test against Bangladesh. That gives us a space to rebuild,” Klusener said.
After playing in Dehradun for a year, Afghanistan shifted to a new ‘home venue’ in Lucknow, last month. And Klusener is pleased that the conditions have suited his team.
“One day we would like to play at home. But it’s home away from home for us. It’s been good. The surface has suited us and that’s the most important thing. If you have got to have home away from home advantage, then the wickets must suit you,” he said.
With the Ekana International Stadium track likely to aid the spinners, Afghanistan has the edge, as it has the likes of Rashid Khan in its ranks. “There is no hiding the fact that spin is our strength. We have got three of the best spinners in the world. It’s important that it suits us,” Klusener said.
After a humiliating defeat against India in its debut Test last year, Afghanistan has managed to beat Ireland and Bangladesh in the last two Tests that it played. The head coach says that the team has set ‘small goals’ ahead of the clash against the West Indies.
“They are pretty new to Test cricket, so it is understanding how it works and how it flows. So, we have small little goals about how we want to go about things. It’s a learning process, but we want to be as positive as we can,” he said.
“Batting is about scoring runs, whether it is one-day cricket, Test cricket or T20 cricket. It’s just how you go about. That’s the challenge for us -- finding a balance between attacking and defensing,” Klusener said.
The big win against Bangladesh has given the side a big boost and the Afghans hope to keep the momentum going.
“We can take a lot of confidence with a way we played in the practice games. That’s good. They are coming out of a win against Bangladesh -- so there’s lot to look forward to. If we can put runs on the board, we will be difficult to beat,” the coach warned.
Time for the Afghans to prove their coach right!
- Hard-serving Ivo Karlovic officially announces his retirement from tennis
- World team table tennis c’ships: India men edge out Kazakhstan to enter Round of 16
- Former India cricketer Lalchand Rajput appointed UAE head coach
- Take Bairstow out of firing line: Cook urges England to bench the out-of-form batter
- Royal Challengers Bangalore WPL 2024 team analysis: Squad depth, players to watch out, fixtures