NEW DELHI: Afghanistan mystery spinner Mujeeb Zadran says tricks of the trade learnt from Ravichandran Ashwin in the IPL will come in handy during his team’s inaugural Test against India, beginning in Bengaluru from Thursday.
Having made his domestic debut only in August last year, the 17-year-old spin sensation has risen rapidly to become a key member of the national team alongside lead spinner Rashid Khan.
Ashwin taught him a mystery ball in the Kings XI Punjab nets during the IPL and Mujeeb said he is going use that against India.
“I spent a lot of time with Ashwin at the nets and it was really helpful. He told me spots where to bowl. He has also taught me a new ball and I am trying to learn it. It is a carrom ball with an off-spin action,” Mujeeb, who forms a potent spin attack with Rashid said.
He has not played a First-Class game yet but Mujeeb’s successful stints in the IPL, U-19 World Cup and with the national team in shorter formats have made him “fearless”.
“I have played high-level cricket already so there is no fear going into the Test. Thanks to the IPL, I know how to handle pressure. I don’t fear playing against any opposition. It used to play on my mind but not anymore,” he said.
The Khost-born cricketer spins the ball both ways and has a very effective googly, which even foxed Virat Kohli in the IPL.
Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai has gone on to say that his spin department, comprising Rashid, Mujeeb, Mohammad Nabi and Rahmat Shah, is even better than India.
Three out of the four spinners played in the recently-concluded IPL and will have a fair idea of what to expect from the Bengaluru pitch.
Mujeeb is one of them and having spent more than a month with Ashwin, he is ready to use the gained wisdom against the KXIP captain.
“I have already figured out how to go about my business (during the Test). Virat Kohli is not playing but there are other batsmen like Ajinkya Rahane and Lokesh Rahul who are also very good. We won’t be taking anyone lightly.
“The good thing is that I have already played against and alongside the big players in the IPL. I will utilise all of that in the Test.”
PM Modi hopes historic Test match will boost ties with Afghanistan
New Delhi :Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday he hopes the historic cricket Test match between India and Afghanistan would strengthen ties between the South Asian neighbours and allies in the fight against militancy in the region.
Afghanistan started its maiden five-day Test match in Bengaluru on Thursday, with the match attended by top government officials from both sides.
“I congratulate the people of Afghanistan as their cricket team plays their first international Test match. Glad that they have chosen to play the historic match with India. Best wishes to both teams!” Modi said on Twitter. “May sports continue to bring our people closer and strengthen ties.”
India’s sports minister, Rajyavardhan Rathore, shook hands with Afghan players before the match and read out a congratulatory statement from Modi.
Awarded full member status by the International Cricket Council (ICC) alongside Ireland in June last year, Afghanistan became the 12th Test-playing nation after first being recognised by the ICC in 2001. India is the world’s top-ranked Test side.
Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai was presented with a memento from former India all-rounder Salim Durani, who was born in Kabul, before the match began.
India has already offered war-ravaged Afghanistan two stadiums in the country to host matches with other nations.
New Delhi enjoys close relations with Afghanistan and both accuse common neighbour Pakistan of not doing enough to stop Islamist militants operating on its territory.
“The historic friendship and relations between India and Afghanistan go back to centuries. I’m glad that cricket is now added as another layer,” Afghanistan Cricket Board chairman Atif Mashal said in January, when the date and venue of the match were announced.
No let-up in intensity, vows skipper Rahane
Bengaluru: A day before Afghanistan’s debut in the world of Test cricket, India skipper Ajinkya Rahane said playing Test cricket was always special and it was an honour for his team to be a part of the historic tie.
Said Rahane, standing in for the injured Virat Kohli, “Every Test counts and we don’t want to take anyone lightly.”
There has been a lot of talk about how India will tackle the Afghan spinners, given the way they have troubled and foxed batsmen in the shortest version of the game. “The preparation going into this match is no different,” Rahane said.
“Over the last three days, the focus has been on tuning our minds, especially because we’re coming in after two months of IPL.
“Skill-wise, it won’t make a difference, but our attitude matters, to make a quick switch, in terms of our mindset from T20s to Test cricket. It’s important that we train our minds. Cricket is a funny game and we cannot take anyone for granted. We are focusing on our strengths and positives and not thinking about Afghanistan. It is very important for all of us to go out there and give more than 100%.”
The India captain said that it was important for them to play to their strengths, and confessed that he was not sure what the pitch would offer from Thursday.
Rahane said that he was yet to discuss the XI with coach Ravi Shastri. On Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai’s statement that their spinners were better, Rahane said, “Every member believes that their team is good, be it the bowling or batting department. In Test cricket, throughout the five days, every session matters.
“Ashwin, Jadeja, and Kuldeep are all experienced and quality spinners. They back each other and enjoy bowling with each other in the match and in the nets. On a given day, it’s important what your mindset is and how you handle pressure.”
Afghanistan received Test status last year along with Ireland. Since gaining ODI status in 2009 they have qualified for two 50-over World Cups including the event in England and Wales next year.
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