India start as the favorites against an Afghanistan side that is demoralised and low on confidence. (Image credit: Getty Images)
A dominant win against South Africa. A clinical win against five-time champions Australia. A wash-out against New Zealand and a thrashing of Pakistan which enhanced their World Cup scoreline to 7-0. Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team are on top of their game. Such is their depth and their confidence that this team resembles the aura which the dominant Australian cricket team had in the 2003 and 2007 period. The depth was exhibited when KL Rahul stepped up and played a brilliant knock in the high-pressure encounter against Pakistan. In the bowling, despite Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s injury, Vijay Shankar stepped up and displayed his mettle.
In Bhuvneshwar’s absence, Mohammed Shami will step up and finally get an opportunity. Shami has been in great form and his addition will only boost the powerful Indian team line-up to another level. At the other end of the spectrum is Afghanistan, a team that has massive issues on the field and off it as well. Before the tournament, the appointment of Gulbadin Naib in place of Asghar Afghan had not gone down well with many Afghanistan players. On the field, the batting and bowling have fallen apart.
The batting has suffered three major collapses against New Zealand, South Africa and against Sri Lanka. The bowling has lacked spark, with Rashid Khan, considered to their ace going without a wicket for the last couple of games. Rashid’s ineffectiveness and the strained team atmosphere has been detrimental to their World Cup campaign. Before the game against England, reports emerged that members of the Afghanistan squad were involved in a scuffle in a Manchester hotel and that also did not help their cause.
Heading into the clash against India, Afghanistan might put up a fight but they face a massive problem on the confidence front.
India has massive depth and resources. With Bhuvneshwar Kumar ruled out for this match, Mohammed Shami will slot in. Vijay Shankar suffered an injury while training but he is fine and is expected to play in this match as he looks for a greater contribution. Should the team decide to rest Vijay Shankar, either Dinesh Karthik or Rishabh Pant might get a look-in.
India (Playing XI): Rohit Sharma, Lokesh Rahul, Virat Kohli(c), Vijay Shankar, MS Dhoni(w), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah
Afghanistan (Playing XI): Hazratullah Zazai, Noor Ali Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Mujeeb Zadran, Gulbadin Naib(c), Mohammad Nabi, Ikram Ali khil(w), Rashid Khan, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan
Who will win?
On current form, looking at team morale and current form, India is winning the contest against Afghanistan.
Weather and pitch
The build-up to the game has been marred by rain. The weather report for Saturday is sunny with some cloud cover but no threat of rain.
On current form, India holds a massive upper hand against an Afghanistan side who are demoralised and unsettled both on the field and off the field.
Stadium and timings
The match will be played at Southampton and the match will begin at 3:00 PM IST.