As the cricket world turns its attention to the IS Bindra Stadium in Mohali, the anticipation for the first T20 match between India and Afghanistan on January 11, 2023, reaches its peak. This encounter marks the beginning of a gripping three-match series, with India stepping onto their home ground as the perceived favourites. However, Afghanistan, known for their resilience and fighting spirit, are set to challenge the hosts in what promises to be an exciting contest.
The series is already making headlines for the impending clash and the return of Indian cricket giants Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli to the T20 squad. Sharma’s recent release from the captaincy of Mumbai Indians – a role now entrusted to Hardik Pandya – adds an intriguing subplot to his return. This series is a golden opportunity for Sharma to reaffirm his prowess in the shorter game format.
Virat Kohli’s return sparks debates and raises questions about the team management’s long-term vision, especially with the T20 World Cup on the horizon, set to take place later this year in the West Indies and the USA. The inclusion of these seasoned players indicates a strategy that might blend experience with youth in the upcoming global tournament.
On the other side, Afghanistan’s readiness for the series is noteworthy. Their extensive experience playing in Indian conditions could give them a tactical edge. Although a three-match series may not offer ample scope to test their bench strength, it undoubtedly provides vital match practice ahead of the World Cup. The Afghan team, boasting a mix of youthful exuberance and seasoned campaigners, faces a setback with the injury of their star player, Rashid Khan.
Probable Playing XIs
India: Ruturaj Gaikwad, Rohit Sharma (c), Virat Kohli, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh, Jitesh Sharma (wk), Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Mukesh Kumar, Avesh Khan, Arshdeep Singh.
Afghanistan: Ibrahim Zadran, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Rahmat Shah, Najibullah Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Karim Janat, Azmatullah Omarzai, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Naveen-ul-Haq, Noor Ahmad.
Key Players to Watch
Virat Kohli: Kohli’s return is a significant event. Known for his aggressive and impactful batting, Kohli will aim to silence his critics and substantially contribute at the top of the order. He has an excellent T20I record and will be eager to improve that in this series.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz: The Afghan wicketkeeper-batter has been in great batting form of late. He scored his maiden T20I century recently and will be eager to advance that momentum into this series.
With their home advantage and the inclusion of seasoned players like Kohli and Sharma, India are tipped as the favourites. However, Afghanistan’s formidable squad cannot be underestimated. They will be keen to disrupt India’s rhythm and spring a surprise. This clash is more than just a game; it’s a battle between India’s established might and Afghanistan’s emerging cricketing prowess.