India add wrist spin flavour in practice to counter Afghan mystery spinners
The Indian team are set to make a return to red-ball cricket with the one-off Test against Afghanistan, scheduled to begin on the 14th of June in Bengaluru. Without regular captain Virat Kohli, who has been rested due to injury, the side, led by Ajinkya Rahane, had their first practice session at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
An interesting facet of the session was the way India decided to train, in their attempt to tackle the Afghanistan mystery spinners Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, come the Test.
The Indian team, during their first practice session at the Chinnaswamy, seemed to be tying all loose ends in a bid to prepare for the spin challenge. Even though there were three quality spinners in Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, and Kuldeep Yadav testing the Indian top-order at the nets, the Indian team management opted to use the services of leggie Yuzvendra Chahal and local chinaman bowler Shivil Kaushik, who played in the IPL for Gujarat Lions.
The wicket portrayed a greenish look on Monday morning with dark clouds and rain in the air. Ravi Shastri had a close watch on the pitch before heading to the nets at the NCA. The square at the Chinnaswamy has been mostly under covers over the last two days due to occasional showers.
Will India opt for a dry track? If so, then they would be wary of the Rashid Khan threat and be prepared for some wrist spin magic. They did prepare in earnest and it was evident when they decided to have Chahal, Kuldeep, and Shivil - three different variations - for their first practice session ahead of the Test.
The last Test at the Chinnaswamy is a classic example of what a quality visiting spinner can do if the wicket offers a bit of turn. During the India-Australia clash in March 2017, 26 of the 40 wickets were taken by spinners from either side, with Nathan Lyon picking eight Indian wickets in the first innings.
Most of the Indian players, by now, must have realized the impact of match-winner Rashid having seen him from close quarters in the IPL. But comeback man Karun Nair stressed that it's a "different ball game" in Test cricket.
"Most of us have played him in IPL, but this is a different ball game. No one has played him in Tests," Nair said.
In fact, Rashid, who even caught the attention of Sachin Tendulkar during this IPL, has himself played only four first-class games.
"I don't think even he has played many red-ball games. It is going to be new for everyone, we'll just have to play him how it comes," Nair added.
The 26-year-old Karnataka batsman, India's second Test triple-centurion, has his own plans to counter Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
"I can talk personally, I just read it out of the hand. It is the best way to play spin: he (Mujeeb) is obviously a good bowler, but we'll have to wait and see what happens," added Nair.
Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai had recently stated confidently that his team had better spinners in their lineup than India, despite Rahane's side having the No.4 and No.5 ranked Test bowlers Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin in their lineup.
The Afghan team is heavy in the spin department, with Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Amir Hamza, Zahir Khan, as well as spin all-rounders Mohammad Nabi and Rahmat Shah in their ranks.
All eyes are certainly on the wicket.