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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

Expect Afghanistan to learn quickly from thrashing on Test debut against India

Afghans must temper their machismo for starters if they need to ensure playing for full five days, writes Paul Radley from Bengaluru

Afghanistan played their first Test match in Bangalore, but it lasted only two days. Aijaz Rahi / AP Photo
Afghanistan played their first Test match in Bangalore, but it lasted only two days. Aijaz Rahi / AP Photo

Why were Afghanistan so poor in against India in their first Test outing?

A month earlier, Ireland had fared so much better against Pakistan when they started in the format.

Ireland are the side Afghanistan have measured themselves against for much of the past decade.

Having seen them push Pakistan so far on their Test debut in Malahide, the Afghans must have thought they had it in them to do similar when they got their chance.

And yet, when it came to it, they were miles off, embarrassed within two days. It was the first time a Test had finished so quickly on the subcontinent.

It is worth pointing out that they were up against the world’s No 1 side, on their own territory. There is a reason the best of the rest in Test cricket regard India as a major frontier to conquer.

Set against the Ireland-Pakistan example, there was a far more substantial gulf in experience.

Of course, Pakistan have years of pedigree as a Test nation. But their XI for the Malahide Test had actually played less first-class matches than the Irish team.

By contrast, three Indian players – Ishant Sharma (82), Cheteshwar Pujara (58), Ravi Ashwin (58) – have played more Test matches (198) between them than the entire Afghan XI have played first-class games (168). Mujeeb Ur Rahman, the much-hyped teenage spinner, was making his first-class debut in a Test.

So it stands to reason the Indians were going to be cannier than the newcomers.

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What can they do to improve? Temper the machismo for starters.

Afghanistan are already a long way removed from their early days, when attempting to hit every ball as far as possible was a necessity to prove their manliness.

Back then, they only made it through 50 overs with luck. In their first Test, they lost all 20 wickets in under 67 overs.

The implosion was down to the rashness of their strokeplay. It was typified when, after a promising second-innings stand with Hashmatullah Shahidi, captain Asghar Stanikzai surrendered his wicket with a street-cricket slog. Their demise came about almost immediately.

“It was just the beginning for them,” opposing captain Ajinkya Rahane said. “You cannot blame them. They tried their best.

“It is just about playing the matches. Five-day, Test-match cricket is all about attitude and patience.”

Afghanistan coach Phil Simmons was glad of the chance to face the very best at the first opportunity.

“When you play against the best, you know how much work you have to do to get where they are,” Simmons said.

“That is what I would take out of this game, that the players now see – it is not just me telling them – how tough Test cricket is.

“I think that is what we have to take from this. We might have been more competitive against No 8 or 9, but for what we have learnt, I will take that.”