Colombo: The trouble while playing against a team like Afghanistan first up in a global tournament is that there is everything to lose and nothing to gain.
At best, India can go par for the course and thrash them comprehensively, or at worst, they can go into the match with a complacent mindset and end up red-faced in embarrassment.
It’s one of cricket’s truisms that the shorter the game, the better chance a weaker team has, especially if the big team has a bad day. Bangladesh proved that in the 2007 ODI World Cup against India, and MS Dhoni’s men will need to be on their guard for a spirited fight by the newest additions to the international cricket family.
The Afghans are the feel-good story of the cricket world, coming as they do from a country torn apart by decades of war, and with most of them having grown up in refugee camps in Pakistan. That is the reason why their qualification for back-to-back World Twenty20s merits a lot of credit.
- Bowling will give Dhoni & Fletcher a headache
- India to experiment with different field settings in Twenty20
- Afghanistan seek to boost war-torn homeland
That said, there’s no department in which Afghanistan can compete with an on-song Indian team.
The batsmen will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing a bowling attack that could barely hold a candle to any good first-class attack in India, especially since their best bowler, Hamid Hassan, was ruled out of the match by captain Nawroz Mangal on Tuesday.
“Hamid Hassan is carrying an injury. But still we are very confident that we have a real good bowling attack to cope with any kind of pressure,” Mangal said.
The bigger test will be for the weaker link in the Indian team – the bowlers. With the pressure of bowling to top-level batsmen not there, they might just relax and decide to experiment. That could be flirting with danger, and they must stick to the basics and develop a plan as though they were facing one of the top teams.
Dhoni has already made it clear that he would stick to the four-bowler theory for now, which means Harbhajan Singh looks nearly certain to sit out of the game, along with Manoj Tiwary, Ashoke Dinda and Piyush Chawla.
The pitch for the game looks whiter than normal, which indicates that it is bone dry. The India-Pakistan warmup match was played on one of the corner wickets and produced over 370 runs and all concerned will be hoping the pitch plays like the other one, in order to see a run feast.
Dhoni’s plan against weaker teams is generally to bowl first and then chase down the target, although, with this being the second match of the day, batting fourth on the surface may not be ideal.
IRISH TEST FOR AUS
The first match on Wednesday is Ireland’s chance to showcase what they do best — shock big teams. They begin their campaign against an Australian team that is slightly thin on the batting front and battling for confidence under captain George Bailey.
The likes of the hard-hitting Kevin O’Brien and left-arm spinner George Dockrell will be itching to make their mark on this tournament, but the Aussies have been known to raise their game on big occasions, and the fact that this is one trophy they have never possessed may rankle them into giving their best.
This will be the first time that the two teams will face each other in a Twenty20 international.