BANGALORE, India: Shaken by the horrors of war, Afghanistan will take a mighty step in cricket history when captain Asghar Stanikzai leads his team out for their first ever Test match against India on Thursday.
Conflict has scarred virtually every member of the team and they are impoverished compared with their opponents, the world’s wealthiest cricket nation.
But Stanikzai said they are determined to show their rise to a Test nation less than two decades after being recognised by the International Cricket Council in 2001 is merited.
“It’s a great moment for us as we embark on our Test journey,” said Stanikzai, who has been a member of the Afghanistan side since they gained one-day international status in 2009.
“To be competing against the best on the Test rankings table is something to be proud of and we will try to do our best in whatever chances we get and exhibit the skills the players possess individually as well as collectively as a team.”
Afghan cricket grew out of the refugee camps in Pakistan where many families were based after they fled the Afghan conflict in the 1980s and 1990s.
Now the country is producing world-beaters like 19-year-old spinner Rashid Khan.
In March, the teenager became the fastest bowler to reach 100 one-day international wickets, and is currently the world’s top-ranked Twenty20 bowler.
Khan was one of a handful of Afghan players in this year’s Indian Premier League and proved one of its most dangerous bowlers. He took 21 wickets for runners-up Sunrisers Hyderabad, who paid $1.4 million for his services.
“In my opinion we have better spinners than India,” Stanikzai told Indian media, highlighting the likes of Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Mohammad Nabi, Rahmat Shah and Zahir Khan.
After impressive performances in the limited-overs formats, Afghanistan must prove they can stand the stresses of a five-day match.
Conditions in India are unlikely to surprise them, though: the team have been training in the country since 2015 because of poor security at home.—AFP