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Exuberance meets experience in groundbreaking premiere

13 Jun 2018 CricBuzz

Two days before the start of the inaugural Test match, Kevin Pietersen summed up what it meant to play a Test match at the Pataudi lecture. He called it the 'greatest all-round challenge in modern sport'. A few hours before Pietersen's speech, Afghanistan lined up together after a practice session in full whites, and a bright blue blazer for the official team photographs. They had finished practice only a while ago but their spirits were still high. The players sat first, followed by members of the support staff joining them one by one and all of it finally ended with a raucous laughter and cheering. It was scheduled a day earlier but had to be cancelled because of poor lighting. Even that had resulted in selfies and more laughter. In practice sessions, Mohammad Shahzad pauses his batting stint in the nets to greet journalists. When the bowler, Amir Hamza, comes to explain the imaginary field he has, Shahzad waves him away; Rashid Khan has some fun bowling to clueless tailenders as he fires in his legspinners and follows it up with a word or two. Being in Bengaluru, they have also called in bat-makers to their practice sessions to test out new equipment. Their first team huddle lasts a good twelve minutes before the players split up in groups but it's a fairly relaxed session. Their practice sessions grow in intensity over the next two days but the final one, as too their first one, is affected by rain. Their line-up too will not see too many of their white-ball specialists crossing over to the longer format. The others have prepared in relative obscurity as the focus is diverted to their known entities, namely their spinners who have done well in the IPL. India decided that their final practice session before the Test starts is an optional one. It's a process that they have put in place from their previous Test series in South Africa. Their preparations are in contrast to Afghanistan's. They begin their training with intensity a couple of days ahead and leave the day before for rest and recuperation. They do not have their regular captain in Virat Kohli, but it hasn't disturbed them too much. The practice sessions still run like a well-oiled machine. The players don't have to be told what to do except for certain routine instructions. Shikhar Dhawan has a fitness training but doesn't bat, Karun Nair joins Cheteshwar Pujara for slip catching practice on the final day, the bowlers have decided to give the optional training a miss, so has Murali Vijay. The stand-in skipper, Ajinkya Rahane, like Dinesh Karthik before him plays oblivious to Asghar Stanikzai's comments comparing the spinners of the two teams. They believe that their own experience will matter more in the upcoming days. They have grown used to the excitement of a Test match, and have processes to handle it. From Thursday, Afghanistan's exuberance will be up against India's experience. But Afghanistan will walk out with a sense of achievement to have even come this far. Where: M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru When: 14 June, Thursday What to expect: Rain might rob a few parts of the game while the pitch isn't expected to play at any extreme. Team News India For a while now, India have wrestled with the best options to pick from those available with primary focus on the two trios - the openers and spinners. There is a chance that in the absence of Virat Kohli, all three openers feature but Murali Vijay's lack of game-time in the recent past could also pave the way for Karun Nair to find a spot in the middle order. R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja lead the race for the spinners' slots but Kuldeep Yadav has an outside chance of getting in, if wrist spin takes precedence. Probable XI: Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Murali Vijay/Karun Nair, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja/Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma Afghanistan With spin bowling being a clear strength, Afghanistan will wrestle with the right options to pick from. They have all possible options - left-arm wristspinner bowler in Zahir Khan, mystery spinners in Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Khan's leg spin, conventional finger spinners and all-round options in Mohammad Nabi and Amir Hamza. Probable XI: Javed Ahmadi/ Ihsanullah, Mohammad Shahzad, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Stanikzai, Nasir Jamal, Mohammad Nabi, Afsar Sazai (wk), Rashid Khan, Yamin Ahmadzai, Sayad Shirzad/Wafadar, Zahir Khan/Mujeeb ur Rahman/Amir Hamza Stats and Trivia - This is the first time ever India are hosting a Test match in the month of June. It will be the 265th Test on Indian soil and with this Test, only the months of May and July remain to host a Test in India. - If selected, Dinesh Karthik will be playing his first Test since 2010. He has missed 87 Tests in between which is the sixth most by any player and the most for an Indian player. - If selected, Mujeeb Ur Rahman will become the first player to be born in the 21st century to play Test cricket. He will also become the sixth player since 1900 to make his first-class debut in a Test match. - Since Jan 2012, this will be only India's second of the 63 Tests not to feature Virat Kohli. The only other Test he missed was against Australia in Dharamsala last year. ShareTweetShareRELATED STORIES

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