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    Written by Jamie Alter

    India begin Super 8s against tricky Afghanistan

    June 18, 2024

    From round one of the T20 World Cup, India expectedly topped Group A and as per the seeded schedule, ended up as A1 and will now play C1 which is Afghanistan, a team that should surprise nobody by their presence in the Super 9 stage as topper of Group C. 

    Afghanistan have the players for these conditions, as evident by their demolition job of New Zealand. Big wins over Uganda and Papua New Guinea were expected, and even though Afghanistan were smashed by West Indies in their final round one game, this is a squad brimming with confidence and quality and India will view this game as the banana skin to avoid. 

    India’s campaign so far took place in the USA, with three wins in New York followed by a washout in Florida. On that tricky – and at times dangerous- New York surface, India chased totals of 96 and 111 and defended 119 to beat Pakistan. Now they are in the West Indies, where Afghanistan have played all their four games thus far. The challenge has increased, given the need to make the knockouts with matches against Australia and Bangladesh to follow. There is literally no room for error. 

    Some would say it is harsh to judge Virat Kohli’s failures – nine runs in three innings – since they all came in New York where batting was far from easy. But in those same conditions, Rishabh Pant averaged 48 at a strike-rate of 124.67, Rohit Sharma managed a speedy fifty and Suryakumar Yadav, after two failure, bedded himself in to get a match-winning 50* in a tricky chase.

    Kohli has been backed to open across the World Cup and has been given the brief to go hard at the ball, and this has led to his three poor scores. He cannot be expected to change his ways in the Super 8s, but conditions in the Caribbean will suit him more than on Long Island. If Kohli hits form, India’s path to the semi-finals will become easier. 

    Rohit himself needs to score runs, given that of his tally of 68 he made 55 in one innings. The middle order is shaky, and the decision on whether to persist with Ravindra Jadeja – no wickets, no runs – will be a tough one. Kuldeep Yadav has carried drinks all tournament and surely has to come into play at some stage, and so whether India need a wrist-spinner or two left-arm spinners of the same variety will be seriously debated. 

    The good part of India’s campaign is that the four pace options have stayed fit and done the job as a pack. Jasprit Bumrah bagged consecutive Player-of the-Match awards in New York, Arshdeep Singh and Hardik Pandya have seven wickets each and Mohammed Siraj, though he has one scalp from three games, has been consistent and economic. These four seamers will have to keep it together again, not just against Afghanistan but all through the Super 8s. 

    India have yet to lose to Afghanistan in T20Is, and this match looks the trickiest in their history. The Kensington Oval in Barbados has runs on offer, with Australia crossing 200 earlier in this tournament against England, but assistance for spinners and pacers alike. Bat first is the way to go, but India prefer chasing. Suddenly in a new environment, against Fazalhaq Farooqi, the leading wicket-taker of this World Cup, Rashid Khan, Noor Ahmad and Naveen-ul-Haq the job will be tough for India – with all due respect to Pakistan and how well their quarter of pacers did against them in New York – even if the conditions will be easier to bat in, simply because there is no scope to lose a match in the Super 8s. 

    About the Author

    Written by Jamie Alter

    Jamie Alter is a sports journalist, author, commentator, anchor, actor, and YouTuber who has covered multiple cricket World Cups and other major sporting events while working with ESPNcricinfo, Cricbuzz, Network 18, the Zee Group and as Digital Sports Editor of the Times of India. Follow Jamie on Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.

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