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Afghanistan vs. India: Biggest Lessons Learned from Asia Cup Clash

India’s Ajinkya Rahane, right, plays a shot as Afghanistan’s Mohammad Shahzad watches during their match in the Asia Cup one-day international cricket tournament in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, March 5, 2014. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)
A.M. Ahad/Associated Press
Rory MarsdenFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2014

India made short work of Afghanistan in their final 2014 Asia Cup match on Wednesday, a dead rubber which threw up more questions about their selection policy than their performance.

Afghanistan's batsmen, who had performed well in victory over Bangladesh earlier in the tournament, capitulated spectacularly at the first sign of spin and were all out for 159 inside 46 overs.

India reached the set target from just 32.2 overs, with openers Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane scoring 60 and 56 respectively before falling and leaving it to Rohit Sharma and Dinesh Karthik to finish the job. 

However, the post-game talking points were not about the result—neither side could have progressed to the final—but about India's selection with their stuttering one-day side.

The key lessons learned from each side in this dead rubber are examined below.

 

India's refusal to experiment could cost them

There would seemingly be no better time to experiment with the Indian side than a dead rubber in a competitive game against Afghanistan.

However, there was no place for fast bowler Ishwar Pandey, who has been part of the ODI squad for the recent New Zealand tour and the Asia Cup but has not appeared in either.

Furthermore, there was still no spot for middle-order batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, who has become a regular Test player and averages 58.92 in domestic one-day cricket.  

Former India skipper Sunil Gavaskar was very critical after the game when talking to Star Sports (h/t ESPNcricinfo.com):

Very hard to understand, to be honest with you, it's baffling.

Some of the players have been playing non-stop, they need a bit of a break before the World T20 starts, the second thing is if you are not going to give the reserve players a chance, then when are they going to play.

Are you worried that Cheteshwar Pujara will score runs so that your favourites who are not consistent might have to make way?

It looked like an obvious opportunity for India to try something new, but their refusal to do so could become a problem as it could breed an atmosphere of complacency within the squad.

With the World Twenty20 in two weeks' time, India could do without any criticism of their selection process.

 

Afghanistan need to improve their batting against spin

The newcomers to the tournament can leave with pride having claimed the not inconsiderable scalp of Test-playing nation Bangladesh. 

They are in a good position, having gained vital experience, ahead of the World Twenty20, but they will need to improve their batting going into that tournament.

Their major problem seems to be against spin. They picked up 52 runs off 11 overs against the Indian seamers but were all at seas against spin.

India's spin trio of Ravindra Jadeja, Ravi Ashwin and Amit Mishra took combined figures of 25-3-73-7 between the 12th and 36th overs when they rotated.

SHARJAH, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 08: Afghanistan players celebrate after dismissing Umar Akmal of Pakistan  during the Twenty20 match between Afghanistan and Pakistan at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on December 8, 2013 in Sharjah, United Arab Emira
Francois Nel/Getty Images

Samiullah Shenwari managed to reach 50 but other than that Afghanistan were lacklustre.

Captain Mohammad Nabi addressed the issue post-game, saying via ESPNcricinfo.com: "We have come to world cricket just a while ago. We need time. We have a lot of camps before the 2015 World Cup, and we will bring a batting coach from Australia or New Zealand as well." 

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