India will want to win badly against Afghanistan: this goes without saying. However, India will want to outperform them in all three departments, which is what they need to focus on. The hosts are better on paper and form, but reputation matters very little in sport.
The Afghans have arrived in India with their full-strength side. They will want to upset India’s best-laid plans and try to forge something of their own. The Indians play very few international T20Is ahead of the T20 World Cup slated to be held later this year in the USA and the West Indies, and they will treat this series rather seriously.
Afghanistan will rely heavily upon Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Rahmat Shah, Ibrahim Zadran, and Azmatullah Omarzai, among others, to give them a good platform to take on India. The hosts cannot afford to take them lightly. If they do so, India will be playing with danger, and they cannot do so in such a crucial series.
With seniors Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli back in the side, a lot will depend on who gets left out of the squad. The inclusion of the senior pros throws the team’s plans off balance, but it can be expected that they will come out good in this series.
Both of them have been in good form recently; they showcased in the 50-over World Cup held last year why they are still the best in the world. India must tread carefully with their team’s composition to beat Afghanistan in this game.
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.
Rohit Sharma: Skipper Rohit Sharma, who also opens the innings for India, is a key player for them. Sharma regularly gets the team off to good starts and plays a critical role for the rest of the batters coming in after him. Sharma’s cavalier approach to batting makes him stand out from his colleagues.
Fazalhaq Farooqi: Fast bowler Fazalhaq Farooqi is among the most critical players for Afghanistan in this series. His toe-crushing yorkers towards the end of the innings make him stand out, and it will be pretty essential to restrict India to a low total. He was in a standoff with the Afghanistan board recently, but it has come to a happy conclusion.
India are, quite naturally, the favourites to win this game. Afghanistan may have a well-balanced squad, but beating India in their home conditions is rather challenging. The Holkar Stadium in Indore, which will play host to this game, is a relatively small ground, and the side that hits the most sixes will win it by a comfortable margin.