India starts as strong favourite against Afghanistan. There is a difference in class between the two sides. This is probably the strongest Indian ODI side of all time.
Unless the pitch offers help for bowlers, the safe option would be to bat first. We’ve seen teams opt to bowl first, and it has backfired badly. Only Bangladesh has managed to chase a big total, against West Indies, while the others have struggled. The old adage of scoreboard pressure still holds true, so if India wins the toss, they should get in and bat Afghanistan out of the game. Afghanistan, on the other hand, is in a bit of turmoil. They have been losing games, and most of their matches haven’t even been close affairs.
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Rashid Khan’s poor performance in the previous outing, against England, is a cause of concern. It goes to show that there is a huge difference between bowling well in T20s and ODIs. Different formats of the game demand different skills. When batsmen are forced to attack Rashid Khan - as it happens in T20s - it plays into Rashid’s hands.
But in ODI cricket, batsmen can stick around and wait for the loose delivery. And most importantly, you can respect the good balls and keep your wicket safe. Every cricketer is bound to go through ups and downs in his career. At some point, the opposition may have worked you out, but you must find a way to come back stronger. Rashid is a skillful spinner, so I have no doubt that he will find a way to get back on track.
It is unfortunate that Shikhar Dhawan will miss the World Cup, but I don’t think his absence will have any effect on India’s chances. If the selectors and the team management had big plans for Rishabh Pant, they would have played him in the eleven against Pakistan.
Unless Vijay Shankar or Kedar Jadhav fail to make runs, I expect Pant to be on the bench for the duration of this tournament.
(Tune in to Select Dugout on Star Sports Select 1 on India matchdays and Sundays)
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