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Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Afghanistan's Test debut against India began

June 13, 2018 – Afghanistan's cricket team captain Asghar Stanikzai (L) and Afghanistan's National Team Manager Shir Agha Hamkar address a news conference
©Reuters
 

June 15, 2018 - If one just keeps harping on about how momentous an occasion this was for Afghanistan and how much it meant to the players and the nation, the significance of the match may still not hit home. To understand Afghanistan's Test debut, here's some context:

Afghanistan were playing against the likes of Bahamas and Japan in World Cricket League Division 5 just a decade ago. The country has borne the brunt of militancy more harshly than any other country in the world. That has brought migration, loss of livelihood and inexpressible misery.

From the point where picking up a bat and ball seemed a far cry, they had become one of the only 12 nations to be granted official Test recognition. The beginning though wasn't as inspiring as they would have expected - with the match getting over within 2 days, becoming the second shortest Test match in terms of balls bowled in Asia and the shortest in terms of days.

But, that should not deflate Afghanistan. Many teams have found themselves inept at the art of Test cricket, just like the Asghar Afghan-led side experienced at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on June 14 and 15 in 2018. Afghanistan were not the first and they won't be the last. They'll only get better after such a tough start.

After setting some unwanted records like handing India their biggest innings victory by a margin of an innings and 262 runs, managing to bat the fewest overs in Tests - 27.5 in the first innings and 38.4 in the second innings in their inaugural Test (Bangladesh is next with 46.3 overs), scoring two of the lowest totals by a team in their inaugural Test and losing 24 wickets in a day are not pretty numbers to look at. But, having hit the rock-bottom in the five-day format, the only way for Afghanistan is now up.

Another thing which needs to be looked at is that Afghanistan were handed the toughest assignment in world cricket right now i.e facing India in their home conditions. This has proved tough even for cricketing giants like Australia. One can thus sympathize with Afghanistan.

India scored 474 batting first, with both openers Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan notching up centuries. Only Mohammad Nabi, Hashmatullah Shahidi and Asghar Afghan could offer some resistance to the Indian bowling attack, before they too found it too hard to stay put.

Yamin Ahmadzai was the top wicket-taker for Afghanistan with three wickets while Wafadar Momand and Rashid Khan picked up two wickets each. However, both gave away runs in excess of 4.5 RPO.

"We hadn't played a Test match before this and we've learnt a lot. In the future when we play a match, we know now how to play against a full member nation like India. Yes, we were surprised by how quickly things ended because we were a good team. But Test cricket is a completely different ball game, we have a lot of time and we'll work on our weaknesses," Afghanistan captain Asghar Afghan said after the early finish.

The moment of the match arrived after the match ended, on the auspicious occasion of Eid, when Ajinkya Rahane, who was standing in for Virat Kohli, invited the Afghanistan team for a group photograph. The gesture had the power to inspire future generations of Afghanistan cricket to not abandon the idea of Test cricket just because the start was bumpy, but to persevere like they did with the white ball in order to become the best team they can.

Signs were assuring when Afghanistan beat Ireland by 7 wickets in their next Test, less than a year later.

 

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