Red ball, India Test await Rashid and co
Few expected Afghanistan to inflict a clean sweep on the 'experienced' Bangladesh side in the three-match T20 series that the two teams played in Dehradun. It was supposed to be a closely fought series but the Afghans had other plans.
The first match was an easy win, the second was won by them in the penultimate over and the third went to the last delivery. The results give a fair indication of how dominant Afghanistan have been.
Led by Rashid Khan, who finished the series as the highest wicket-taker with eight wickets in three matches while giving away only 49 runs in 11 overs, the Afghans gave a glimpse of just what they are capable of.
Next on their list is India. Afghanistan are set to start a new chapter with their historic first-ever Test against the world's best team in the format in Bengaluru. But the questions remain, can they extend their form from the T20s to the Tests? Are they flexible enough? Do their batsmen have what it requires to complement Rashid and Co?
"We've been preparing for the Test against India (and the T20 series) from around 45 days. Afghan board officials and our support staff have worked very hard for us. We're in the middle of Ramzan and still, there has been no let down in the support and help they have given us," Afghanistan's middle order batsman Shafiqullah Shafiq said.
Though the team might be well prepared, it's common knowledge that the Afghans rely a lot on their spin department. Probably world's best limited-overs bowler, Rashid, leads their pack and has able support in the likes of Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman. There are question marks on the batting department, however.
India have as strong a bowling department, if not stronger, as well and the Afghanistan batsmen will have to play out of their skins to give their bowlers something to bowl to. That this would be their first-ever Test match only adds to their pressure
"They do play four-day matches at home so a lot of players who are going to be a part of Test squad must already be going through that training to play the longer format. Though I'm no longer associated with them, I can say that there are a few solid players in the team who can be brilliant in long formats and one of them is Rahmat Shah. He is someone who has been consistently among the runs in the last few series. Asghar Stanikzai, as well, is known to bat long, "Afghanistan's former batting coach Monty Desai had told Sportskeeda.
Rahmat, in 13 First Class matches has 741 runs at an average of almost 50 while the skipper, Asghar Stanikzai, has 1421 runs in 23 FC appearances at 45.40. Can they transform that form at the biggest of stages is yet to be seen though.
However, irrespective of what the outcome of that match will be, this would be the biggest occasion in the short history of Afghan cricket. "The Test against India will be very good for us. Their players are experienced in the format of the game and will play good cricket. That will certainly help us going forward in Tests," Stanikzai said.