Virat Kohli’s India will take on an upbeat Afghanistan in their bid to stay alive in the 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup on Wednesday.

India started the tournament as one of the favourites but crashed to two losses in the Super 12 stage and now need to win their final three group games, improve their Net Run Rate significantly, and depend on other results, to have any chance of making the semi-finals.

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.

T20 World Cup: Virat Kohli’s India ignored the warning signs and have paid a heavy price

T20 World Cup, Super 12 Group 2 scenarios: Can India still hope to qualify for the semi-finals?

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.

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 dug out cheaply. In the previous match against Pakistan, Shaheen Shah Afridi produced a spell for the ages to stun the top order.

In Abu Dhabi, the test will likely be different.

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 but he sat out the previous match.

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

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.

IND vs AFG in men's ICC multi-team events

Team Result Margin Toss Bat Opposition Ground Start Date
India won 7 wickets won 2nd T20I v Afghanistan Gros Islet 1 May 2010
India won 23 runs lost 1st T20I v Afghanistan Colombo (RPS) 19 Sep 2012
India won 11 runs won 1st ODI v Afghanistan Southampton 22 Jun 201

IND vs AFG all matches across formats

Event Result Margin Ground Start Date
T20 World Cup 2010 India won 7 wickets Gros Islet 1 May 2010
T20 World Cup 2012 India won 23 runs Colombo (RPS) 19 Sep 2012
Asia Cup ODI India won 8 wickets Dhaka 5 Mar 2014
One-Off test India won inns & 262 runs Bengaluru 14 Jun 2018
Asia Cup ODI tied - Dubai (DSC) 25 Sep 2018
ODI World Cup 2019 India won 11 runs Southampton 22 Jun 2019

Kohli’s team is under immense pressure losing two in two with now 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.

If Suryakumar Yadav, who is suffering from back spasms, is fit and available, India will have to make another decision on their team combination that would come under scrutiny. Does Hardik Pandya merit to keep his place based on his batting displays and a disappointing bowling effort? Would the swap be straight with Ishan Kishan?

On the bowling front too India have looked toothless apart from Bumrah, but the options waiting in the wings are not out and out wicket-takers either. R Ashwin’s exclusion is once again causing debate but he is a controller more than enforcer while Rahul Chahar’s inclusion in the squad over Yuzvendra Chahal puzzles a bit more with him not getting a game.

Of course, all these questions would take a backseat at least temporarily if India can punch to their weight even if not above.

For Afghanistan, it will be a case of dreams realised if they beat India at 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 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 had said.

Quotes corner

India batting coach Vikram Rathour: 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 the surface. But being a world champion, you have to find a way to win against all the odds, and we have failed to do it. The challenge will be their spinners. But if we play to our potential, I think we should be okay.”

— via ICC

Afghanistan pacer Hamid Hassan: “Honestly, we’re just taking one game at a time. But the plan is to qualify to the semi-final. And we can’t say before that, oh, we beat India. The day we’re playing against any team, we just focus on the same day. Or for the next game or the next day, the plan is clear: just playing one game and targeting one team and these other matches we’ll see what happens next.”

— via ICC

Afghanistan have expectedly won two games against Scotland and Namibia and were in the contest against Pakistan for the better part before Asif Ali took the game away with four sixes in one over. Their NRR is super impressive. India’s meanwhile is poor to put it mildly.

Batting first and winning big has been Afghanistan’s preferred gameplay but will they be tempted to change it in order to not give India what they want?

For Kohli, probably in his last three matches as T20 captain of India if the team can’t progress, a revival of fortunes cannot come sooner.

Group 2 table ahead of NZ-SCO & IND-AFG

 PAKISTAN  +1.065 
 NEW ZEALAND  +0.765 
 NAMIBIA  -1.600 
 INDIA  -1.609 
 SCOTLAND  -3.562 


India: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (w), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Varun Chakravarthy, Shardul Thakur, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishan Kishan, Rahul Chahar.

Afghanistan: Hazratullah Zazai, Mohammad Shahzad (w), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi (c), Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Karim Janat, Hamid Hassan, Naveen-ul-Haq, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Usman Ghani, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Fareed Ahmad, Sharafuddin Ashraf.

With inputs from AFP, PTI, ICC and ESPNcricinfo Statsguru.

Match starts: 7:30 PM IST and will be broadcast on Star Sports & Disney+Hotstar.