All focus has shifted to the one-off Test between India and Afghanistan at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru a week ahead of the contest.
With Afghanistan gaining an upper hand against Bangladesh in the ongoing Twenty20 series in Dehradun, many feel the young Afghanistan side, which possesses four spinners, would put India under pressure. But Lalchand Rajput, Afghanistan’s former coach, feels the young side will face a test of patience in a format that is quite new to its players.
“The side is well balanced and it has got some really good spinners in Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Zadran, who could be lethal. But then, the team has not played five-day cricket in the past and that could be a challenging task for them,” Rajput, who coached Afghanistan until last July, told Sportstar .
‘Different ball game’
“Test cricket is a different ball game altogether. Unlike the shorter formats, here it is very important to control emotions and stay focussed till the last day. This will be a first such outing for the Afghanistan side and it will be interesting to see how they handle the pressure,” Rajput said.
Rajput, the former Mumbai captain, played a pivotal role for Afghanistan during his stint with the team. He helped the side enter the Test arena. Having coached the Indian team in the past, Rajput understands what a team needs to deliver on the big stage.
With Rashid grabbing all the attention due to his credible performance in the Indian Premier League (IPL), Afghanistan will rely largely on the 19-year-old spinner to help compete well. Having seen Rashid from close quarters, Rajput believes the Test against India will be a learning curve for Rashid. “In Test cricket, one has to bowl for at least 20 overs, far more than [in T20s] and [One-Day Internationals]. All this while, these guys have focussed mostly on bowling four overs or 10 overs. But now, the entire equation would change,” Rajput said.
“Rashid is very accurate with his delivery and he uses his fingers pretty well while delivering the ball. That makes him quite lethal. But if a batsman reads him well, he is playable,” Rajput said.
Rajput pointed out that batting line-ups would benefit from settling down and read him well, as Chennai Super Kings had done during the IPL final against Sunrisers Hyderabad (Rashid went wicketless and conceded 24 runs). “Chennai Super Kings took a smart decision. It played Rashid tactfully and did not allow him to find breakthroughs. That’s one formula which could work in Test cricket as well. With a bit of focus, a good batsman will be able to tackle Rashid,” Rajput revealed.
While he admits it will be a test of character for Afghanistan, Rajput is elated by the way the team has made its mark in the international arena. “They have taken a big leap and the journey has been phenomenal. There was a time when not many knew about Afghanistan team and now, they are playing so well. It is a fascinating journey,” the former coach said.
Though he would have loved to travel to Bengaluru for the Test match, which begins on June 14, Rajput will give it a miss due to his international coaching assignment with Zimbabwe, for which he is scheduled to depart on June 10. But even if he is far from the venue, Rajput will make it a point to keep an eye on his former wards.
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