The last time India were in Southampton they had run away easy winners over South Africa in their tournament opener, would Afghanistan be able to test them in this one?
India’s star-studded line-up could well break a few batting records when they face the tournament’s favourite whipping boys Afghanistan in what threatens to be another lopsided contest at the ICC World Cup on Saturday.
One of the title contenders, India’s match against Afghanistan could well be a glorified net session in which they would like to put up a resounding performance that not only eases their passage to the semi-final but also ensures a good net run-rate.
Afghanistan’s controversial campaign, marred by poor on and off-field decisions, has gone from bad to worse. And they now face the onerous task of squaring off against a galaxy of world class players, whose performance graph is on the upswing.
Such has been their dominance that even injuries to senior opener Shikhar Dhawan, speedster Bhuvneshwar Kumar or all-rounder Vijay Shankar have not had any impact whatsoever on the performance against the top teams.
Afghanistan have been unable to recreate the magic they did in the ICC Men’s World Cup Qualifiers and Asia Cup last year, having faced five defeats in as many completed games so far.
This match could provide Kohli with an opportunity to promote Kedar Jadhav up the order as he is one batsman in the line-up, who has played only eight balls over three completed matches.
Also India Afghanistan match may see Rishabh Pant making it to the playing XI if Vijay Shankar is not 100 percent fit. India would need Kedar’s batting on days when the top order might not click and Afghanistan gives the team management the best opportunity to give him quality match time.
Both the teams have played twice against each other where India have come out on top once and the no result could take place in the other one. In WC though this will be their first meeting.
The inexperienced Afghans may find Kuldeep Yadav or Yuzvendra Chahal’s craft too hot to handle. However, a spirited show against India will certainly boost Afghanistan’s confidence and some competitive edge to one-sided contests, which have taken some sheen off the global meet.