India's fortunes in the T20 World Cup are no longer in their hands. Following India's eight-wicket defeat to New Zealand in the previous match, the Blackcaps and Afghanistan are now in pole position to take the second place in the group and qualify for the semi-finals.
Afghanistan have played some excellent cricket in the competition and India will have to be wary of them in order to avoid any further slip-ups. They also have a Net Run Rate of +3.097 and should it come to that, Afghanistan also have a head-start.
For India, this is an opportunity to exorcise their demons in the T20 World Cup. The batters have failed to get out of the blocks in both games and the bowling unit has looked impotent as a whole. However, it goes without saying that they will encounter several challenges against an in-form and resolute Afghanistan side
Which three players are likely to be the main cause of headaches for Virat Kohli and co? Let's take a look:
1. Rashid Khan
There's little less to add regarding Rashid Khan except for the fact that he's among the greatest T20 cricketers of all time. In the game against Pakistan, Rashid became the fastest to reach 100 T20I wickets and he has been in destructive form during the T20 World Cup.
The 23-year-old has already picked up seven wickets and he has the sixth-best economy rate of 4.74 in the competition. Rashid's spells have put opposition batters to sleep who have chosen to not go after him.
India's struggles against spin bowling have been well documented in recent games. The likes of Imad Wasim and Ish Sodhi have not only managed to apply squeeze to the middle-order run progression but have also picked up wickets.
In T20s, Rashid Khan has dismissed Virat Kohli once, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, and Rohit Sharma twice each, and KL Rahul thrice. Only Rohit Sharma has a strike rate greater than 118 against Rashid although he has faced less than 20 deliveries. Rishabh Pant and Ishan Kishan are the only other batters with strike rates greater than 100 against the Afghan spinner.
2. Mujeeb ur Rehman
Mujeeb ur Rehman plays the perfect partner-in-crime to Rashid Khan's exploits in the Afghan national team. When both of them seem to be on song, there's little hope for opposition batters to keep the scoreboard ticking or look for attacking shots. Mujeeb has already taken six wickets so far in the competition and he has an even better economy rate of 4.25 (the third-best in the competition).
Mujeeb's greatest asset is his ability to constantly attack the batter's wickets so in case they fail to read his line and length, their bails get dislodged pretty easily. It is this positive mindset that has done wonders for him and will make him extremely lethal for a batting side already lacking in morale and confidence.
3. Najibullah Zadran
Najibullah Zadran has done well with the bat and he's the highest scorer for Afghanistan in the T20 World Cup. Zadran has scored 88 runs in three matches at an average close to 30. He's been instrumental in the middle order for his side but will face a stern test against Jasprit Bumrah tonight.
The Indian bowling unit, with the exception of Bumrah, has looked pretty impotent in the T20 World Cup. Only two wickets have fallen in favour of the Men in Blue in the World Cup and both have come from Jasprit Bumrah. Afghanistan have the capability of batting strong and batting deep and this will be another big test for the lacklustre bowling outfit of India.