India take on unheralded Afghanistan today
St Lucia: Up against an unheralded Afghanistan in their tournament-opener, India will have to guard against complacency to ensure a flying start to their campaign in the T20 cricket World Cup here on Saturday.
Considering there is very little room for errors in the slam-bang format of the game, India would have to be at their best to avoid the ignominy of being destroyed by the minnows of international cricket.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has already warned his star-studded legion not to underestimate Afghanistan and teammate Yuvraj was also worried about the X-factor of their opponents, who have caught the imagination of the world over the last two years.
“It can be dangerous when you don’t know what the opposition is like. After ten overs you will end up in a situation when you don’t know what you are going to do.
“They have a cricket culture in their country. It is not that somebody has just sprung up from no where. They definitely have that little bit of cricket in them. We need to be on top of our game tomorrow,” said Yuvraj.
Considering that a loss tomorrow can jeopardise their Super Eights hopes, India are expected to have their best men on the park.
While Murali Vijay may make his debut, it is unlikely they would blood R Vinay Kumar, who though could be handy on this slow-paced deck.
The Indian top-order has been fortified with the presence of Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, who was in rollicking form during the just-concluded IPL.
Down the order, there is Yusuf Pathan, who can murder any opponent with his big-hitting spree, while in Mahendra Singh Dhoni, they have someone who gets going when the going gets tough.
Ravindra Jadeja, whose imprudence forced him out of the IPL, is a gutsy customer who can use the long handle to good effect down the order. His accurate left-arm spin will come in handy if the likes of Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Praveen Kumar go for runs far too many.
Harbhajan Singh, Pathan and Yuvraj strengthen the bowling stable, giving it the teeth that India have been longing for in the big event environment.
Afghanistan, on the other hand, have already rang a warning bell, saying they have some tricks up their sleeves and were capable of surprising the Indians at the Beausejour Cricket Ground on Saturday.
“It is good that they don’t know us because when they know about you they will plan. Luckily, we know everything about them. We have seen all their IPL games. We will give them a surprise which will make them remember us after the game,” Afghan coach Kabir Khan said.
Skipper Nowroz Mangal has pinned his hopes on opening batsman Karim Sadiq, Noor Ali Zadran, who has scored centuries in each innings on his first class debut against Zimbabwe, Hamid Hasan who at times is said to bowl at speeds over 90 mph, and left arm fast bowler Shahpoor Zadran to fire on the big occasion.
Karim Saqid believes that each of the war-ravaged players are capable of upsetting India’s applecart.
“Having survived in refugee camps and fought for food and clothes all their life, they are not used to defeat. They could surprise India,” said Karim.
If Afghanistan does to India what Zimbabwe did to Australia in the 2007 T20 World Cup, history would made at this enchanting island. But, will Dhoni’s men fall to the unknown?
Afghanistan: Nawroz Mangal (C), Mohammad Nabi, Karim Sadiq, Mirwais Ashraf, Rais Ahmadzai, Dawlat Ahmadzai, Mohammad Shahzad, Hamid Hassan, Samiullah Shinwari, Noor Ali, Asghar Stanikzai, Shahpoor Zadran, Shabir Noori, Sayed Nasrat, Shafiq Shafaq.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (C), Murali Vijay, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla, Vinay Kumar, Rohit Sharma.
Match starts at 7 pm (IST).