LUCKNOW, India – CMC – West Indies have prepared for a “difficult” challenge from novices Afghanistan when the one-off inaugural Test between the two teams bowls off midnight on Tuesday, (Eastern Caribbean time).
Head coach Phil Simmons told reporters onTuesday while Afghanistan possessed limited experience in the longest format, playing in subcontinent conditions made them a dangerous side and it was important West Indies were on top of their game.
“As an opponent, they are going to be difficult,” said Simmons, ahead of his first Test with the Caribbean side in his second stint in charge in four years.
“They are going to be very difficult because they are on their home ground. The wicket’s going to turn [and] everything like that but in saying that, everywhere you go the opponents are going to be difficult in their home atmosphere.
“It is going to be a difficult Test match for us but at the end of the day, we’ve got to play home and away all the time. That’s how we look at it.”
West Indies enter as overwhelming favourites to dominate the game at the Atal Bihari Vajpayee International Stadium. In their captain Jason Holder, they possess the world’s leading all-rounder in Tests while Kraigg Brathwaite, Roston Chase and Shai Hope are all experienced campaigners with Test hundreds to their names.
Veteran seamer Kemar Roach will lead the Windies attack with Holder and fellow pace bowler Alzarri Joseph playing supporting roles.
Specialist spinner, left-armer Jomel Warrican, is expected to feature prominently as is off-spinning all-rounder Rahkeem Cornwall who made his debut on India’s tour of the Caribbean last August.
Afghanistan, meanwhile, has played just three Tests since gaining ICC status two years ago, winning two – against India and Bangladesh – and losing to India.
And Simmons, who stepped down as Afghanistan’s coach following the World Cup in July, said the Windies would be looking to exploit the Asian side’s inexperience.
“I think there’s a lot of changes in this team compared to the white-ball team,” he noted.
“And I think that’s their format. Their format is T20 and they’ve done well over the last two, three years in T20 cricket so they were always going to fight back in that one (series).
“I think this one (Test format) they’ve had three Test matches. They’ve done well … but it’s still a learning stage for them and hopefully, we can capitalise on that.”
Afghanistan’s bowling, as it did in the recent T20 series, is expected to be the strength of the home side. But while they boast some decent fast bowlers, it is their spinners like leg-spinning captain Rashid Khan, 19-year-old leg-spinner Qais Ahmed and 20-year-old left-arm spinners Zahir Khan and Hamza Hotak who are expected to prove the real threats.
And Simmons said West Indies would undertake a last-minute assessment of the pitch before deciding on the composition of their squad.
“I’ve got to have a look at the wicket again today and maybe tomorrow morning and see what it looks like before we decide what the final bowling attack would be like,” he said.
“It (final XI) may be heavy on spin or heavy on-seam depending on what we see between Monday and Tuesday.”
AFGHANISTAN – Rashid Khan (captain), Asghar Afghan, Ihsanullah Janat, Ibrahim Zadran, Javed Ahmadi, Rahmat Shah, Karim Janat, Qais Ahmed, Ikram Alikhiel (wicketkeeper), Afsar Zazai, Nasir Jamal, Zahir Khan, Yamin Ahmadzai, Hamza Hotak, Nijat Masood.
WEST INDIES – Jason Holder (captain), Shai Hope, John Campbell, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shimron Hetmyer, Shamarh Brooks, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Sunil Ambris, Jomel Warrican, Rahkeem Cornwall, Kemar Roach, Keemo Paul, Alzarri Joseph.