AFP| Afghanistan face sky-high expectations at home ahead of their historic first-ever Test match starting Thursday against India, captain Asghar Stanikzai has said.
The mood in war-scarred Afghanistan may also help the team when they step out at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore to enjoy their newfound Test status, he told reporters on the eve of the game.
“It is itself history that we are playing the inaugural and historic Test match against the number one team in the world,” Stanikzai said.
“The mood back home is very positive. They expect us to perform well because recently Afghanistan performed really well in T20 and one day internationals and their expectation will be the same for Tests.
“We have worked hard for this and will try to keep up our good performance in the Test match as well,” the 30-year-old skipper said.
Stanikzai said that they are not nervous but “well prepared” for the rigours of Test match cricket.
Since gaining one day international status in 2009, the Afghans have made giant strides and qualified for their second 50-over World Cup in England and Wales next year. They have also been part of four Twenty20 World Cups.
Afghanistan, who have been forced to train in India since 2015 because of the conflict at home, have just secured a T20 series sweep over Bangladesh with teen sensation Rashid Khan now an international star.
The top T20 bowler in the ICC rankings, Khan took the Indian Premier League by storm with 21 wickets for runners-up Sunrisers Hyderabad.
– Khan power –
Afghanistan coach Phil Simmons said that putting the spotlight on Khan’s talents is helping the other players focus on improving.
“Rashid is so professional, he knows how to deal with it. And while he is dealing with it the others have time to work on their own strategies,” said the former West Indies allrounder on Wednesday.
“It’s a good thing for the team.”
India will be without their captain Virat Kohli — the biggest name in world cricket — but Simmons said the home side have other weapons.
“I think there will always be a bit of disappointment in the players not to be on the same field as Virat, but at the same time we look to win the Test match and beat India, we don’t beat Virat,” said Simmons.
“So we are disappointed he is not playing but a little bit happy that we are not going to bowl to him all the time,” he added.
Ajinkya Rahane, who is standing in as captain for Kohli, said his side will have to fight for victory.
“We are not going to take Afghanistan lightly. They have a decent team,” he told reporters.
“As a Test team we cannot take anyone for granted because cricket is a funny game. We want to go out there and be ruthless.
“We are going to focus on our strengths, our positives. We are not thinking about Afghanistan as well: yes, we respect them as our opponent but it’s important for us to go out there and give more than our 100 per cent,” said the batsman.
Rahane said it would be an “honour” for every Indian to be part of the match and acknowledge Afghanistan’s big moment in cricket.