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What India need to do against Afghanistan's key players

Rashid Khan might have come in for some stick in the World Cup, but he is a top-class bowler. Mohammad Nabi is an old-school offspinner who relies on flight to deceive Randy Brooks / © AFP

Why they need to beware of the three spinners, and how they can tackle them

Mohammad Nabi
Nabi is a throwback to days gone by. He has one of the cleanest actions, the ability to slow the ball down, and a lot of control. In terms of the pure hang-time for the ball, he must be among the slowest fingerspinners in the world - in contrast to the majority of his breed, who have started bowling a lot faster to stay relevant. In fact, many of these spinners have lost out on the race for places in white-ball teams despite bowling quicker and even after adding the carrom ball to their repertoire.

Nabi relies on using that airtime for deception. He makes subtle changes to his pace and the angle of delivery to counter aggressive batsmen. Mostly, while bowling to right-hand batsmen, he gets close to the stumps and pushes the ball outside off with drift; from there, the ball grips and turns off the surface. Since he is slow in the air, it challenges the batsman to use his feet to get to the pitch of the delivery. But along with his drift, Nabi is able to make the ball dip on the batsman, which results in a number of wickets caught in the deep. He is also capable of going round the stumps, bowling a little roundarm to create a new, wider angle.

The best way to play Nabi is to use the feet to get to the pitch of the ball, or to use the width of the crease to play off the back foot. Ideally, when you step out against him, the attempt should be to play along and down the ground. That way the body weight is not going backwards while playing the attacking shot. Once you have used the feet to step out a few times, it is advisable to hang back and play off the back foot.

Mujeeb Ur Rahman
He is among the few spinners who are not only adept at bowling with the new ball but also quite effective with it. He has three key variations - the slider, the carrom ball, and the googly - and the knowhow to use them wisely. The first two are bowled at an identical pace and trajectory, with the intent of pushing the batsman onto the back foot. The one with the seam angled towards fine leg moves in the air like an inswinger, and the cross-seam one moves outwards after pitching.

The googly, as is usually the case, is bowled from out of the back of the hand and is the slowest ball he bowls. If the ball isn't gripping the surface, the first two variations aren't too dissimilar in nature and should be dealt with similarly. But once the ball starts gripping the surface, the carrom ball is a threat.

The ideal way to play him is to watch the hand/release closely and choose shots accordingly. If you are unable to read it out of the hand, follow the trajectory of the ball closely. The faster and flatter balls will be the flipper and carrom ball, and the slower ones with the more loopy trajectory will be googlies.

Rashid Khan
He has not had a good World Cup so far but you count Rashid out at your own peril. He is a champion bowler who will ask tough questions and knows how to bounce back after a mauling.

He is quick and flat in the air and represents the new breed of legspinners - the ones who bowl with a high-arm action and try to finish within the stumps all the time. Neither his googly nor his legspinner turns a mile but they will turn enough to keep pressure on the batsman. Unlike more orthodox legspinners, the back of his hand faces the batsman even when he is bowling regular legspin. The giveaway is the position of the fingers when he is loading up: for legspin, he keeps the fingers split apart; for the googly, they are closer together.

Rashid has been guilty of dragging it a little too short too often this World Cup and that has been an area of concern for him. The England batsmen, especially Eoin Morgan, took full toll against the short balls and he struggled to come back in the innings.