India name squad for historic test against Afghanistan

India have named a 15-man squad for their upcoming Test against Afghanistan, which will take place from June 14-18. The Test will be the first in Afghanistan’s history after they were granted status as ICC Full Members in June of last year.

In what will no doubt come as a relief to many of those involved in the historic Test match, India have named close to a full strength squad. Earlier in May, it was announced that captain Virat Kohli would miss the Test match as he prepares for his team’s upcoming Tour of England in July. Kohli was granted the ability to sign with county side Surrey for the month of June, allowing him to adapt to the conditions India will face throughout their Test series against England.

There was some concern that many other top-line Indian players would follow suit, not necessarily by playing county cricket but by heading to England early to get acclimatised. There was discussion that Chetashwar Pujara, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravichandrin Ashwin and Ishant Sharma amongst others were all chances to miss the Afghanistan Test in what would no doubt take the edge of what is otherwise an exciting occasion. All of these players, however, have been named in the squad, which will be captained by Ajinkya Rahane in place of Kohli. 

Aside from their captain, the Indian team will be virtually at full strength. Karun Nair will be the replacement for Kohli, and will presumably come in at Kohli’s number four spot, one sport after Pujara. 

This will, of course, mean India will head into the Test match as virtually unbackable favourites, and Afghanistan could well be in for a tough awakening. Playing against the best of the best is the most proven way to improve though, and in years to come Afghanistan will no doubt look at this Test as a defining moment in their progression as a Test playing nation, regardless the result.

The Indian squad for the one-off Test match against Afghanistan is as follows: Ajinkya Rahane (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Karun Nair, Wriddhiman Saha, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma, Shardul Thakur

Afghanistan have yet to name their side, but there are a number of exciting players who will no doubt be a part of the historic lineup. Mohammad Nabi and Mohammad Shehzad are both proven batsmen with a lot of experience, the talent of Shehzad in particular evident in his first class average of 54.55. 

From a bowling perspective, Rashid Khan is a clear standout. Rashid’s leg breaks have proven particularly difficult for batsmen to read, and in recent years he has built himself into one of the world’s most dangerous bowler’s in the shortest form of the game. He was a standout for the Adelaide Strikers in their 2017/18 Championship season in the Big Bash, and was bought for USD$1.4 million at the IPL auction by the Sunrisers.

These players might not have the talent to enable Afghanistan to truly challenge an Indian team which is at close to full strength. What they will provide, however, is the possibility to prove that Afghanistan can compete at the highest level, and that will be more than enough in the ICC’s newest Full Member in their inaugural Test.