There was much fanfare surrounding Afghanistan's entry into the fold of Test cricket. Although expected to put up a much better display, the debutants disappointed fans with their batting, getting bowled out twice within two sessions.
The argument that Test debutants always fare badly in their first outing doesn't really hold. Only West Indies (vs England) and Pakistan (vs India) conceded innings defeats in their debut Tests. Afghanistan's cumulative total of 212 runs is, however, worse than what both West Indies and Pakistan managed.
While all Test debutants (except Australia and Zimbabwe) lost their first game, many teams gave their opponents a good fight. England, playing Australia in the first ever Test match, lost only by 45 runs. Zimbabwe (vs India), who are now languishing in the doldrums of Test cricket, managed to put up 456 batting first on a dead track and managed a draw.
Most recently, Ireland won many hearts all over the cricketing world by almost pulling off an impossible victory after being asked to follow-on. Every other team, Afghanistan included, that has been asked to follow-on, has conceded an innings defeat. Ireland lost by 5 wickets.
Clearly, Afghanistan has a lot of catching up to do. Here is what they need to do to become a competitive Test side.
#1 - Play more Tests
This is the basic requirement for any debutant to improve. Afghanistan cricket is at a loss here because they, as yet, cannot play Test cricket at home. It is also highly unlikely to happen in the near future. Their best bet, therefore, will be to play Test cricket away from home, travelling to opposition camps.
As their captain, Asghar Stanikzai, mentioned in the post-match interview, Afghan players had never experienced a Test match before and hence were unable to cope with the pressure put on them by a premier Test team. However, until they get to play more Tests, they would do well to implement Ajinkya Rahane's suggestion to visualize match situations in practice.