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Posted at: Jun 13, 2018, 1:51 AM; last updated: Jun 13, 2018, 1:51 AM (IST)

Afghanistan’s intriguing move from pace to spin

The big, burly Pathans are not bowling dangerous pace!

Today on TV

  • First odi
  • England vs Australia
  • sony six, 5:30pm

Rohit Mahajan

Tribune News Service

bengaluru, june 12

Three years ago, Afghanistan’s cricket idols were six feet and a half tall, weighed a ton and bristled with anger when asked if they were afraid of, say, the Australian fast bowlers. “We, afraid?” they would ask reporters during the 2015 World Cup in Australia. “We are afraid of nothing,” they would add. The men who became representative of the team and its aggressive and fearless quality were the fast bowlers — Shapoor Zadran with a flowing mane and a dangerous look in his eye, and Hamid Hassan, a man-mountain who bowled with pace and aggression.

The current team, in contrast, is much less ferocious. Out of the squad of 16, nine men bowl spin. You could be forgiven for believing that bowling spin is a very un-Pathan thing to do - think Pathan bowlers, and you think of men such as Pakistan’s Imran Khan and Umar Gul, or Zadran and Hassan.

Turn to spin

Afghanistan’s turn to spin, as Zadran and Hassan faded away, is intriguing. The spin revolution is led by leg-spinner Rashid Khan, off-spinner Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman and allrounder Mohammad Nabi. Zahir Khan is a promising left-arm Chinaman bowler. Three of these are teenagers, the fourth, Nabi, is 33 years old. It seems that the young Afghan players have taken a sharp turn toward spin.

The Afghans are also doing a bit of media spin around their spinners. The captain, Asghar Stanikzai, has said that their spinners are superior to India’s. “In Afghanistan, the brilliant thing is that a lot of the young talent that is coming through are spinners, because they all follow Rashid, they follow Nabi,” Stanikzai said a few days ago. “In my opinion, we have good spinners, better spinners than India.”

India have got left-armer Ravindra Jadeja and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, and also Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav. Stanikzai says they’re not as good as his spinners.

Test cricket

The four Afghan spinners named above have played a combined total of 43 first-class matches; Jadeja has played 87 on his own.

The Afghan spinners have been very successful in the shorter formats, especially T20 cricket — in it, every batsman is on the attack, playing risky shots. Can Rashid and Co. be as threatening in Test cricket?

Dinesh Karthik, who has replaced Wriddhiman Saha in the Indian team, today said he was delighted at Afghanistan’s progress in cricket; he also said he understood why Stanikzai is trying to build up his own spinners. But, he said, experience matters. “I’m sure in time they will be even better bowlers,” he said of Rashid and Co. “But the point is, the kind of improvement they have shown in white-ball cricket has been phenomenal. There is no reason why they cannot do that in Test cricket. But I would definitely say our spinners have a lot of experience — and experience is not something that can be easily bought. I’m sure their players will also vouch for that.” 

England agree to handshake as Oz go on charm offensive 

London: Australia captain Tim Paine says his players will shake hands with their England rivals before their clash at The Oval on Wednesday as the tourists aim to heal the wounds of their recent ball-tampering scandal. Ahead of Australia’s ODI meeting with England, Paine asked Eoin Morgan if the teams could have a pre-match handshake on the field. England captain Morgan has agreed to the request, but only for the opening game of the five-match series. “They don’t have to do it but it’s something we want to bring in at the start of a series, not before every game,” Paine said. — AFP


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