Afghan journeymen aim to stall India's journey
Match factsSeptember 19, 2012
Start time 1930 (1400 GMT)
Big pictureIf one of Twenty20's main purposes is to globalise the game, Afghanistan are its success story. Their country has been in the news for unfortunate reasons, but its teams' qualification for back-to-back World Twenty20s and the Under-19 World Cup is a welcome story. By all accounts, the following back home matches the frenzy cricket brings to the rest of cricketing Asia.
For the second time in their two appearances in the T20 global event, Afghanistan have drawn neighbours India at the start of the tournament. They will dearly love to be the banana skin, and they know this format was founded on banana skins. They will want to put pressure on India's bowling, which can be brittle under fire.
For India this match is expected to provide some much-needed relief after their bowlers have faltered in two of their last three Twenty20s. They will do well, though, to not take their opponents lightly because this is an event where you need just three bad hours to book a return ticket.
Form guide (last 5 completed matches, most recent first)Afghanistan LWWLL
Watch out forMohammad Shahzad is a wicketkeeper, is known as MS in the Afghanistan dressing room, and like the other MS he aims to unleash the helicopter shot come this World Twenty20. "I am Dhoni's biggest fan, and I love the way he bats," Shahzad said. "I try and copy the shots that he plays and have practiced the helicopter shot at the nets. I was missing everything, it's a very difficult shot to play. But I kept persisting till the time I mastered the shot. Inshallah, you will see me hitting the helicopter shot in the match against India. And hopefully Dhoni will like it too."
Yuvraj Singh was a calculated risk when picked for World Twenty20, the underlying idea being his fitness would be tested before the tournament began. However, rain and his late entry in the batting order has meant he has faced only 43 balls going into the first match. His fitness and strength hasn't really been tested, and India are entering a bit of an unknown with him. They will hope that they have got back the Yuvraj of the old.
Team newsDuring the warm-up games, India tried playing five specialist bowlers and used Irfan Pathan and R Ashwin at Nos 7 and 8, but don't expect MS Dhoni to take that adventurous route. He never does, no matter how weak the bowling might be. Dhoni said India will go in with four bowlers for the opening game.
India (possible): 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Gautam Gambhir, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 Rohit Sharma, 7 MS Dhoni (capt. &wk), 8 R Ashwin, 9 Irfan Pathan, 10 Zaheer Khan, 11 L Balaji/Ashok Dinda.
Seamer and Afghanistan's strike bowler Hamid Hassan has been ruled out of their opening game due to injury. He missed their warm-up games as well.
Afghanistan (possible): 1 Mohammad Shahzad (wk), 2 Javed Ahmadi, 3 Karim Sadiq, 4 Nawroz Mangal (capt.), 5 Asghar Stanikzai, 6 Mohammad Nabi, 7 Samiullah Shenwari, 8 Dawlat Zadran, 9 Shapoor Zadran, 10 Gulbodin Naib, 11 Izatullah Dawlatzai
Pitch and conditionsThe warm-up game between Indian and Pakistan, although played on a corner strip of R Premadasa square, was low, slow and flat, a U-turn on all the talk of changing nature of pitches in Sri Lanka. The groundstaff will hope for a little more even surface. They will also want something miraculous to happen to the patchy outfield that resulted in many a bad bounce and fumble in the warm-up game.
Stats and trivia
- Mohammad Shahzad, with 312 runs in 11 innings, is the highest run-getter for Afghanistan in Twenty20 internationals.
- Gautam Gambhir, with 444 runs, is the fourth-highest run-getter in all World Twenty20s. In doing so, he has scored four fifty-plus scores, behind only Mahela Jayawardene who has done so on five occasions.
Quotes"It looks very unlikely, when you see the top seven batsmen we have to see which batsmen suits which position the best. Virat can bat at No 3 and then Yuvraj, Raina and Rohit. These are the people who need to get in. Maybe I will take over the slog opportunity and look to play big shots from the first ball. That can be the most likely scenario but it may change later."
MS Dhoni rules out a promotion for himself in the batting order
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.