India Eye Series Win Over Afghanistan; Virat Kohli To Return

A series win over Afghanistan is still not counted among the grandstand cricketing feats, but a clutch of players will be eager to achieve that in Indore on Sunday in the second T20I as it can transform them into contenders from sidekicks. India had won the first game at Mohali by six wickets to take a 1-0 lead. It is then imperative for Jitesh Sharma, Washington Sundar and Axar Patel to produce a defining effort against the Afghans to keep themselves within the selectors’ sight as the move to find a perfect squad for the T20 World Cup has gathered steam.

That India will not play another T20I series ahead of the marquee event in June increases the gravitas around their performance against Afghanistan.

Jitesh has all the reasons to place himself among the frontrunners as the wicketkeeper batter has overtaken Ishan Kishan in the pecking order since replacing the latter from the fourth T20I against Australia at Raipur last year.

The Maharashtra man has struck a couple of useful 30s down the order, but he would not have missed the need for a bigger knock to cement his claim.

In the often-fickle selection landscape of Indian cricket, Jitesh, at 30, would know very well that only constant performances can help him save that frontrunner status.

Tilak Varma offers a very similar case. The left-hander had made an excellent start to his T20I career last year, making 39, 51 and 49 not out against the West Indies in an away three-match series.

But since then, Varma has tapered off. The next 13 innings have produced only one more fifty, against a below par Bangladesh in the Asian Games, with three 20-plus scores and one 30-plus knock dominating the rest of the outings.

Those numbers are certainly not enough for the 21-year-old to land inside the larger scheme of things, and the effort to turn him into a part-time off-spinner too seemed to be having a feeble life.

However, it remains to be seen whether Varma can retain his place in the side as star batsman Virat Kohli is available for this match after skipping the first game.

After missing out on the 50-over World Cup with an injury, Axar now seem to be back in the thick of things in both red and white ball formats.

On Friday, the left-arm spinner was included in the India squad for the first two Tests against England, and he dished out a fine spell at the PCA Stadium on Thursday night as well — 4-0-23-2.

So, the Gujarat man will be eager to weave on the pattern and contribute to a series triumph here.

Sundar too has earned a recall but has not set the stage ablaze so far on his return. He will also eye a change in the second match.

The hope in the hearts of Jitesh and Varma might just have received a fillip as the Indore pitch often gives plenty of assistance to batsmen, as they can expect a fruitful outing here.

But it mandates Axar and Sundar to be at their absolute crafty best. The former had shown how to tame unhelpful conditions through that admirable spell at Mohali.

However, it will be immature to take this Afghan side for granted. They have the wherewithal to hurt India on their day.

The young Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Azmatullah Omarzai and the experienced Mohammad Nabi can tear apart a bowling unit as mercilessly as any other.

Despite the absence of star spinner Rashid Khan, the Afghans have the services of Mujeeb ur Rahman, who was in good rhythm in the first match, Naveen-ul-Haq and Fazalhaq Farooqi.

If they can fire in unison, it will not be far-fetched to expect cracker of a contest.


India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh, Jitesh Sharma (wk), Sanju Samson (wk), Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar, Axar Patel, Ravi Bishnoi, Kuldeep Yadav, Arshdeep Singh, Avesh Khan, Mukesh Kumar.

Afghanistan: Ibrahim Zadran (captain), Rahmanullah Gurbaz (WK), Ikram Alikhil (WK), Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Karim Janat, Azmatullah Omarzai, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Fareed Ahmad, Naveen Ul Haq, Noor Ahmad, Mohammad Saleem, Qais Ahmad, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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