It would be a momentous occasion for debutantes Afghanistan as they step into newer pastures come June 14.  It is a moment all Afghanistani fans, even distantly related to cricket would have been praying for. They lock horns with a Virat-less India at Bengaluru’s iconic M.A. Chinnaswamy Stadium.

Finally, Afghanistan cricket is going to enter the big boys league and are playing some path-breaking cricket. Afghanistan is going to make their international debut against India, the world’s top-ranking team. Indian stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane said that it is a historic moment for the Afghan side and also an opportunity for the hosts to be a part of the occasion.

On the other hand his Afghan counterpart said, “To be competing against one of the best ranked sides and that is something to be proud of and we will try to do our best”.

 It’s their first opportunity to feature in the elite ICC test team ranking and a great chance for the players to enter individual ranking in the in the limited over cricket as well.

Rashid Khan: The Serial Match Winner

Well, he is to Afghanistan what Virat Kohli is for India. He is the new spin sensation for his team and a proven match-winner. His fast leg-spinners and ripping googlies are potent enough to fox the best in the business. He had also earned a tag of the best T20I bowler at present. His out-standing performance in Indian Premier league (IPL) has been praised by the legendary Sachin Tendulkar.

Now, Rashid has to show he can also turn the red ball to generate the same effect like he does with the white ball. In Afghanistan’s debut Test, Rashid will be expected to perform big. His experience in IPL will help him immensely when he plays in Bengaluru.

Mujeeb Ur Rahman: The Mystery Spinner

From being an unknown identity until Kings XI Punjab picked him up in IPL for 4-crores. The 17-year boy gave a sterling performance and gave a highlight to himself by dismissal of Virat Kohli. He got many injuries, stopped him from playing many games but couldn’t stop his 14 wickets from 11 matches record with an economy of 6.99.

Even the best, Virat Kohli had problems picking his doosra and he candidly accepted it.

A lot will ride on Mujeeb’s young shoulders, Afghanistan would dearly want him to play back up to Rashid, like stem the flow of runs from one end allowing Rashid to go for wickets.

Mohammad Shahzad: The burly Keeper-batsman

He is the ‘one’ name fans identify with Afghanistan cricket, for obvious reasons. Shahzad made his first-class debut against Zimbabwe in the 2009 ICC World Cup Qualifiers. In February 2010, he made his T20I debut against Ireland.

Later, in the same month, at the age of 22, he became the first Afghan to score a first-class double century when he scored 214* in Afghanistan’s successful chase of 494 runs to beat Canada in the Intercontinental Cup.

He also has a record of the most scored 50’s in T20I as an associate player. He is the highest run scorer for all associated nations.

If that was not enough, he also set the record for the most number of dismissals as a wicketkeeper in a single T20I innings, which is 5 dismissals in a T20I.

During Zimbabwe tour in 2016, Shahzad played some of the best cricket of his life. He hit a magnificent century of 118 off 68, Shahzad also has bagged the most number of Twenty20 International Player of the match awards by an affiliate member with 8 T20I Player of the match awards. His score currently happens to be the second highest T20I score by an associate player, after Hong Kong Babar Hayat’s 122 runs.

Mohammed Nabi: The Promising All-rounder

He is an allrounder and a former limited over captain for Afghanistan. The right-handed batsman also doubles as an off-break bowler. He also became the first Afghan player to be sold in the IPL to Sunrisers Hyderabad for the 10th season. He was bought at his base price of Rs 30 lakh. In January 2018, he was bought by the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the 2018 IPL auction. His 86 first-class wickets including three five-wicket hauls, and 1934 runs from 32 matches should carry considerable weight.

He was the first Afghanistan player picked by Sunrisers Hyderabad along with Rashid Khan. Apart from leading the team in the past, Nabi is another Afghanistan player who has been a part of the various T20 leagues across the globe like the Big Bash League.

At the age of 33, his age is just a number and an inspiration for the rest of the team. He was the integral part of the Afghanistan side that qualified for World T20 in 2010, 2012, 2014 & 2016, and also the world cup 2015.

Asghar Stanikzai: Oh! Captain my Captain

He is the captain and the mainstay of the Afghanistan batting line-up. The 33-year-old has immense experience.

He is the captain of the ship and the team is set to play his debut test against India. He is someone who brings a lot of sanity and calmness to the Afghanistan batting outfit with his solid style of play.

Meanwhile, he was on a 10 days leave due to appendicitis surgery, and now the man is back and he would defiantly like to show his knocks down.

Asghar Stanikzai had made a statement saying,” “The whole world knows that we have Rashid Khan, Mujeeb [Ur Rahman], [Mohammad] Nabi, Rahmat [Shah], Zahir [Khan].”

(By Srajan Agarwal)