A combination photo of Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi (L) and India captain Virat Kohli. — AFP/AP

World Cup 2021: Three talking points ahead of tonight's India-Afghanistan T20 clash

India need to win their final three group games and depend on others to have any chance of making the semi-finals.
Published November 3, 2021

Virat Kohli's India will take on an upbeat Afghanistan in their bid to stay alive in the Twenty20 World Cup on Wednesday.

India started the tournament as favourites but crashed to two losses in the Super 12 stage and now need to win their final three group games and depend on others to have any chance of making the semi-finals.

Read more: India's T20 World Cup campaign: Where it all went wrong for Virat Kohli and Co

Underdogs Afghanistan are second behind group leaders Pakistan in the table and another win would boost their hopes for a place in the final four.

AFP Sport picks out three talking points ahead of Wednesday's key clash:

India's misfiring batting

Totals of 151 (v Pakistan) and 110 (v New Zealand) are not usually associated with a team having world-class batsmen including Kohli and Rohit Sharma.

But India's batting has been found wanting against the quality pace attacks of Pakistan and New Zealand on a Dubai pitch that was one of the venues of the recent Indian Premier League (IPL).

In a procession against a Trent Boult-inspired Kiwi bowling line-up, KL Rahul (18), Ishan Kishan (4), Sharma (14) and Kohli (9) returned to the dugout with the score on 48.

But batting coach Vikram Rathour blamed the pitches for his team's dismal showing in the two games.

“Batting first on these surfaces is not easy. Any team who are batting first is struggling. We failed to execute the big shots but it is more to do [with] the surface,” Rathour told reporters.

“But being a world champion, you have to find a way to win against all the odds, and we have failed to do it.”

Afghanistan spin threat

Afghanistan are equipped with arguably the best spin attack in the tournament with Rashid Khan and Mujeeb ur Rahman sharing 13 wickets between them.

Rashid, the fastest to 100 wickets in 53 T20 internationals, single-handedly tested Pakistan with his leg-spin before an Asif Ali batting blitz blew the Afghans out.

Mujeeb, a mystery spinner who has nearly all the variations, returned his T20 best figures of 5-20 in his team's 130-run rout of Scotland.

India are historically good players of spin although Kohli and Sharma lost their wickets to New Zealand leg-spinner Ish Sodhi.

“The challenge will be their spinners. But if we play to our potential, I think we should be okay,” said Rathour.

Dream or despair?

An Indian exit from the World Cup is always a shock for the fans, sponsors and broadcasters for the kind of TV viewing the cricketing giants attract during the tournament.

Read more: Party without hosts? Jaded India risk early exit from T20 World Cup

Kohli's team has already faced abuse for losing two in two with the country's cricket board accused of exhausting their players with the IPL having finished just two days before the start of the World Cup.

For Afghanistan, it will be a case of dreams realised if they beat India on the world stage which will add to their stunning rise from a handful of refugee players coming out of the war-torn nation to competing with the cricketing elite.

But talk on Afghanistan's cricket often veers away to the political situation back home after the Taliban takeover but skipper Mohammad Nabi has cut short the chatter with a focus on cricket and the World Cup.

“Let's focus on cricket. We have come here to play the World Cup after preparing very well and with a lot of confidence,” Nabi said.