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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Afghan provides scare - India scrapes through

Afghanistan generally would be in news for wrong reasons.. Afghan is no place for developing cricket nor can dream of entertainment in the form of IPL.  The decades of war made Afghanistan the world's most dangerous country,  including the largest producer of refugees and asylum seekers.  While the international community is rebuilding war-torn Afghanistan, terrorist groups such as the Haqqani Network and Hezbi Islami are actively involved in a nationwide Taliban-led insurgency, which includes hundreds of assassinations and suicide attacks. According to the United Nations, the insurgents were responsible for 80% of civilian casualties in 2011 and 2012.

President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai agreed on Wednesday to press forward with a U.S.-Afghan security pact, the White House said, despite the curtailment of NATO operations in response to a surge in “insider” attacks on foreign servicemen.  At least 51 foreign troops have been killed in “insider” attacks this year in which Afghan security personnel have turned their weapons on their Western mentors.  The two leaders also discussed the need to encourage “restraint and non-violence” in reaction to inflammatory materials, the White House said. 

Yesterday it was different………. It was Cricket - It was to be a simple match – but it did give enough scares for the Indian fans.  The final score of India 159/5  (Kohli 50, Raina 38) beat Afghanistan 136 (Nabi 31, Balaji 3-19, Yuvraj 3-24, Ashwin 2-20) by 23 runs – will never tell the true picture.  There was the patented helicopter shot – not from Dhoni this time, but from the stocky Afghan wicket keeper Mohammad Shahzad, who hit Zaheer over square leg for a boundary.

More will be heard of M Nabi,  born  in a refugee camp in Peshavar and who reportedly took  up cricket at the age of 10 while living there.  He has played for MCC and in Pakistan honing his skills and taking to the World Cup Qualifiers in South Africa in 2009. Nabi struck 58 against Scotland on one-day international debut and 102 in his first first-class game for Afghanistan, against a Zimbabwe XI. An offspinning allrounder, Nabi was the leading wicket-taker at the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifiers in 2010, picking up 13 wickets at 10.53 to play an important role in Afghanistan's success in the tournament.

If only Afghanistan had held on to their chances, India might have been in some real trouble. They dropped four catches – with Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina (twice) and Virat Kohli being the beneficiaries and paid a heavy price for it, especially in the last three instances.

After Dhoni’s losing streak with the toss continued, Indian batting was less than average – even against weaker sides, India now is over reliant on Virat Kohli.  At 22 India had lost Gambhir and Sehwag and Yuvraj parted at 68.  The final flourish took them to 159 !

In scoring 136. Afghan did provide many anxious moments for Team India.  They threw the bats around even while losing wickets.   Yuvraj bowled well claiming 3 wickets but was taken apart in his last over.  End of over 13, Afghanistan 80/5 and exactly the same required off 42 balls.  That was the over. The first one of Yuvi was hit 96M long; and at the end of over they required 67 off 36.  India’s main bowler Zaheer came on to bowl 16th and the first ball was swatted by Nabi for another six. 16 came in that over and now it was 44 of 24 balls gettable…………  Ashwin has been excellent and aprt from the carom delivery, he slows down his delivery stride and that did the trick.  The 17th and his last was great over – just 3 came off with a wicket too.  Finally Afghans perished but giving enough scare and worries for Dhoni and his men. 

There can be always be one sided perceptions and views placed putting someone in badlight.  Gambhir has been at the receiving end, projected that he gets out once too often fishing outside the off stump.  Fact remains that not too long, in the recent tour to Srilanka in the One dayers, he made 102 & 88.  On the same breathe, they talk of Rohit Sharma oozing with talent and being the star of the future,  today he did not get enough to shine or to be blamed, but how he continues to be in the side is a mystery – with scores of :  1*; 4*; 4; 0; 0; 0; 5 – in his last few appearances…..

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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