indian cricket

‘It’s not just about Rashid’: Afghanistan batting coach backs team to do well against India

Umesh Patwal is confident about his team’s batters despite their inexperience in first-class cricket.

Mohammad Shahzad, one of Afghanistan’s best batsmen, in an interview to ESPNCricinfo revealed his preference for making six runs in a ball over running six singles in six balls. This was while his team is readying for its first-ever Test against the world’s top-ranked side in the format: India.

Shahzad’s mindset could be explained by the fact that he’s played 96 T20s – more than four times the number of his first-class games (20).

In fact, most batsmen in the Afghanistan squad that will play the Test against India in Bengaluru have played more T20s than first-class matches.

PLAYER FIRST-CLASS MATCHES T20s
Asghar Stanikzai 23 71
Afsar Zazai 16 6
Hashmatullah Shahidi 14 8
Ihsanullah 6 7
Javed Ahmadi 10 19
Mohammad Nabi 32 165
Nasir Jamal 11 7
Rahmat Shah 13 8
*includes batsmen, all-rounders

The team’s batting coach from Mumbai, Umesh Patwal, however said this isn’t a major concern for a side that has been building its reputation in the shortest format of the game. Umesh has been Afghanistan’s batting coach twice before (in 2014 and 2016) and knows the members of the team well.

“Afghanistan only being good in T20s is a myth,” he said, before mentioning their two triumphs in the Intercontinental Cup, ICC’s first-class tournament for associate nations. He recalled the 2010 game against Canada, when the Afghan batters, led by Shahzad’s 258-ball 214, chased down 494 runs on the final day.

This is Test cricket, though. Against the best-ranked side in the world. In their backyard.

Pressure? No, said Umesh.

Familiar faces

For one, the opponents aren’t unfamiliar. “International cricket has become so much closer. You know about everybody and everything. You watch and learn because all the stats and videos are available,” he said.

The place, for Afghanistan, isn’t alien. In December 2015, they moved their home base to Noida and have been training there.

Some of their players are familiar faces in the Indian Premier League. One of them, a superstar. Rashid Khan tormented the best of the batters in the IPL – finishing with 21 wickets in 17 games at an economy rate of 6.73.

Asked about the team’s dependency on the 19-year-old leg-spinner against the Indians, Umesh replied, “There is always an era. Now, for Indian cricket, it’s Virat Kohli. That doesn’t mean India doesn’t have good bowlers. If you don’t have a good score on the board, how can Rashid defend it?

“This game is a team game. It looks like the team is only Rashid Khan, but no, it’s about Afghanistan and Rashid is a part of it. There are batters like Javed Ahmadi and Rahmat Shah who have scored plenty of runs. We have chased down nearly 500 runs in a day in a first-class game. And that’s a big deal.”

Umesh doesn’t believe in tampering with the technique of the batsmen, which he fears may prove counterproductive. “As a batting coach, I am making our batsmen aware of the different scenarios that they could face,” he said.

“For instance, it’s not that they are going to bat in the first session. If India bats first, then maybe we need to bat only on the second day, maybe in the afternoon or evening, that’s why we practice during different times. Sometimes, I ask them to face a minimum number of balls. Sometimes, they have to score so many number of runs within a particular time. So, it’s about these scenarios.”

There are talks of the pitch-makers at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium laying out a pacer-friendly track to counter the spin-heavy bowling line-up of Afghanistan. But Umesh said his batsmen will be ready. “It will still be the same. These days even bowlers of associate nations bowl over 140 [kph]. And, we have videos of the Indian bowlers. So, we’re very positive about the way we have worked for this match.”

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.