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Team India Report Card: One-off Test Against Afghanistan

Team India Report Card
New Delhi: India handed debutants Afghanistan a humiliating innings defeat in the one-off Test at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Friday. If the loss wasn’t embarrassing enough, the fact that the Indian bowlers cleaned them up twice in a single day added further insult to the injury. The Afghanistan batsmen could bat all of 66.3 overs, two innings combined. This was only the third time that a Test match ended in two days. India added another feather to their cap as they became the first Asian team to win a Test within two days.

CricketNext takes a look at the performances of the Indian players in the match:

Shikhar Dhawan: Rating 10, Verdict: Excellent

It was the Dhawan show in the first session of the Test match with the opener taking the attack to the Afghanistan bowlers from the word go. Having seen off the first couple of overs, Dhawan was at his aggressive best as he decided to take on No.1 ranked T20 bowler Rashid Khan. In fact, the batsman was so severe on the young spinner that Rashid lost the plot completely. Hitting boundaries at will, Dhawan became the first Indian batsman and sixth in the history of Test cricket to score a century in the first session of a match.

Murali Vijay: Rating 10, Verdict: Excellent

If Dhawan was at his attacking best, Vijay played the perfect foil to his opening partner. Struggling with the timing in the initial stages, the opener was more than happy to wait and watch from the other end as Dhawan made hay. But as the overs ticked, Vijay started bringing out the flicks and drives. It started with the trademark backfoot punch to the covers boundary and there was no stopping Vijay after that. Even though Dhawan was looking to be aggressive, Vijay waited for the bad balls and put them away. It was some much-needed time in the middle for the opener after warming the bench during the IPL.

KL Rahul: Rating 9, Verdict: Very Good

Even though Cheteshwar Pujara was expected to come in at No.3, the team management decided to give Rahul a go and he reposed the faith show in him by scoring a 64-ball 54. What was more interesting was the fact that he was willing to buy his time at the crease at the start of the innings. Rahul has often been criticised for trying to up the ante against the run of play. But in this innings, he waited for the bad balls and put them away. His 112-run partnership with Vijay augurs well for the future of the Test team, especially since skipper Virat Kohli likes batsmen who score at a faster pace.

Cheteshwar Pujara: Rating 4, Verdict: Bad

Coming after a county stint, Pujara was expected to make the most of this game before he next plays for India in the all-crucial England series. But unfortunately, Pujara flattered to deceive as he managed to score 35. Getting out after settling down makes his act all the more unforgivable. With the top three laying the foundation, he was expected to make the most of a tiring Afghanistan attack, but that wasn’t to be and the batsman would surely be disappointed with his display.

Ajinkya Rahane: Rating 4.5, Verdict: Bad

While skipper Rahane was spot on with the bowling changes and the field placements, the same cannot be said about the Rahane-the batsman. The 30-year-old clearly failed to create the impact he had in the third Test of the South Africa series in Johannesburg as he single-handedly managed to bat India into the game. Scoring at home has now become a bit of an issue for the stand-in skipper. He needs to get his act right and also get back to the drawing board ahead of the England tour. Time away from the limited-overs team will give him an opportunity to prepare for the challenges the English bowlers will pose.

Dinesh Karthik: Rating 3, Verdict: Poor

Making a comeback into the Test team after a gap of more than 8 years, it was the perfect opportunity for the wicket-keeper to make the selectors sweat when they sit down to pick the team for the England Test matches. But all he could do was get run out after scoring just 4 runs. When it came to keeping wickets, he put up a decent show. But if DK has to find a regular place in the Test team, it has to be due to his batting because Wriddhiman Saha is miles ahead in the current crop of keepers when it comes to glovework.

Hardik Pandya: Rating 8.5, Verdict: Very Good

If there is one thing that one can complain about Pandya’s show in the game, it has to be his seventh stump bowling. While it is good to keep hitting an area outside the off-stump to induce a false shot from the batsman, hitting the seventh stump line ensured that even the inexperienced Afghanistan batsmen managed to happily see them go to the keeper. When it came to batting, he was at his best, notching up his third Test fifty. He would have ideally liked to hit the three-figure mark, but his trial at being too cheeky saw him get caught behind, off Wafadar’s bowling for 71.

Ravichandran Ashwin: Rating 9, Verdict: Very Good

The pacers might have created the impact early on, but it was important for Ashwin to build the pressure on the Afghanistan batsmen and he did just that by picking wickets at regular intervals. While he bagged four in the first innings, his dismissal of Asghar Stanikzai in the first innings is stuff legends are made of. Pitching outside off and drifting in, Ashwin almost had the Afghanistan skipper fall face first on the pitch as the bails were dislodged. This was a silent reply to Stanikzai’s comment — that his spinners were better than India’s.

Ravindra Jadeja: Rating 9.5, Verdict: Excellent

A decent contribution of 20 with the bat, six wickets with the ball and some sizzling display on the field. Ravindra Jadeja once again showed that he has with time become an indispensable member of this Test team. If Ashwin laughed his way to four wickets in the first innings, Jadeja ensured that he was the one laughing his way to the wickets column in the second. And the effort on the field was exemplary as former India skipper Sunil Gavaskar had no hesitation in calling him the ‘Cheetah’.

Ishant Sharma: Rating 9, Verdict: Very Good

He might have just four wickets to show from the game, but Ishant bowled perfect line and length throughout the game. In the past, the senior pacer has often been criticised for bowling a foot too short. But back from a stint in county cricket, Ishant started with a bang as he hit the right areas from the word go. His first two wickets — Javed Ahmadi and Afsar Zazai — in the Afghanistan first innings were a fast bowler’s delight. The ball pitched, came back in and sneaked through the bat and pad to send the stump cart-wheeling.

Umesh Yadav: Rating 8, Verdict: Good

Coming into the game on the back of an impressive display for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL, Umesh did not disappoint as he picked four wickets in the game. While he did look slightly wayward in the first innings, the pacer was hitting the right areas in the second innings and the result was three top-order wickets in the bag. Umesh once again showed that he has the pace to trouble batsmen and if he can manage to show the consistency that he did in the second innings, he can be a regular in the Test XI.

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