India and debutant Afghanistan, who earned their Test status last year in June, will square off in a one-off Test match series starting on June 14 at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.
While India sees this as a preparatory game for upcoming England tour, Afghanistan is confident of wrecking havoc.
India will be desperate to come back to winning ways after losing the Test series against South Africa. However, in a bid to that, they will miss their regular skipper Virat Kohli. Ajinkya Rahane will step up in Kohli’s absence and will look to finish off on a high ahead of the UK tour.
Moreover, it will be a great opportunity for the players to return to form ahead of the important series. Dinesh Karthik returns to the Test squad after eight long years. He will slot in place regular wicket-keeper, Wriddhiman Saha, who is out with a thumb injury.
The Rahane-led side is likely to go with two spinners and two seamers with Hardik Pandya assisting the pace bowling department.
Here is the predicted XI of India for the one-off Test against Afghanistan:
Murali Vijay has been a calm head at the top of the order in the Test team. However, the right-hand batsman hasn’t been in top form of late.
Vijay, who did not have a good Test series against South Africa, will look to get back among the runs ahead of the England tour. Also, with Shikhar Dhawan in the squad, Vijay would want to seal a spot in the playing XI by putting up a good performance.
The competition for the opening slot has been around for quite some time now.
However, KL Rahul is likely to get a nod ahead solely on his current form. He has been in terrific touch in the IPL finishing, as the third highest run-scorer. The stylish Karnataka batsman will look to score some runs and cement his place in the playing XI.
Although Cheteshwar Pujara struggled in the four-day format, he showed some good form in the fifty-over games. He led the Yorkshire batting unit to the knockout stages.
He will look to carry the found form and prepare for the most important England series. Also, he will have to take additional responsibility in the absence of Virat Kohli.
Ajinkya Rahane (c)
Ajinkya Rahane will look to prove a point in this match. Rahane got dropped from the playing XI in South Africa despite being the vice-captain of the side.
Even though he made a brilliant comeback in the third and the final Test, he will be eager to get some consistency in his batting.
He will also have the added responsibility of captaining the side. The last time he captained the Indian team was in the Test against Australia at Dharamsala.
Karun Nair had a lean patch after a superlative triple century against England. However, he will be eager to step up and make a mark against the new entrants.
He will be key to India’s success in the middle-order and will have to tackle an able spin department.
Dinesh Karthik (wk)
Dinesh Karthik, who last played a Test match in 2010 against Bangladesh, has been in a rich vein of form. He replaced Wriddhiman Saha in the team, who sustained a thumb injury.
Karthik will be desperate to cash in on the opportunity to present a case for himself.
Hardik Pandya has established himself as India’s premier all-rounder. Pandya has played some spectacular innings in his short Test career. Moreover, during the tour of South Africa, Pandya played some gritty innings at crucial times.
Also, he has provided the captain with an extra fast bowling option. Pandya will look to groove into the scheme of thing before the start of the overseas tours.
Ravichandran Ashwin will lead the spin and for once, and all will look to end the comparisons on the spin attack of both the sides.
Ashwin has proved, again and again, his effectiveness as a match winner in Test cricket. Afghanistan batsmen are good players of spin bowling, and it will be a challenge for Ashwin to bowl against them.
Ravindra Jadeja has struggled to perform well in the overseas conditions. Owing to which, he did not play a single match in the Test series against South Africa.
However, he is a dangerous bowler in sub-continent conditions. He is highly accurate and gives away absolutely nothing to the batsmen. Jadeja will surely give some hardship to the Afghanistan batsmen.
Ishant Sharma is the most experienced campaigner in the side. He has been in decent form playing for his county side Sussex and will look to carry forward that form in International cricket too.
Umesh Yadav has done well in the longer format in recent past. Moreover, he is coming from the back of a strong performance in the recently concluded IPL.
He will eye to continue his efforts against the debutants and lead the pace battery.