Ahead of their maiden Test against India, Afghanistan have already managed to raise a few eyebrows. In the lead-up to the game starting on Thursday, skipper Asghar Stanikzai claimed in an interview that his spinners were better than Indian spinners.
His words seemed odd considering the Afghan troika of leg spin sensation Rashid Khan, left arm spinner Zahir Khan and 17-year-old newcomer Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who is yet to make his first-class debut, have played a total of 11 first-class matches between them. (Also Read: After long wait, war-torn Afghanistan prepare for maiden Test)
India's 23-year-old left arm unorthodox leg spinner Kuldeep Yadav alone has played 24 first-class matches, including two Tests against Australia and Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin are ranked fourth and fifth in the ICC Test bowling rankings. The duo boasts 476 wickets in 92 tests between them.
It is a gulf in red ball experience, if not quality.
"We have a lot of experience, in not only Test cricket but also domestic cricket and a lot of four-day matches. All their spinners put together haven't played as many (red ball) matches as Kuldeep would have played in four-day cricket. At the end of the day, experience has a lot of value," said wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik, who is returning to the Indian test fold after a gap of eight years. (Also Read: It's a privilege to play Afghanistan in their first Test: Ajinkya Rahane)
"The kind of improvement they have shown in white ball cricket is phenomenal. There is no reason why they cannot do it in test cricket and in time they will be even better bowlers than when they started off. But experience pays and it cannot be easily bought," he added.
On Thursday, Afghanistan will become only the 12th Test nation. They will follow in the footsteps of Ireland, who hosted Pakistan for their maiden Test earlier in May. The two nations have benefited from the ICC's development program, even though Ireland will miss out on the 2019 ODI World Cup in England.
Afghanistan, meanwhile, won the qualifiers in Zimbabwe in March and this maiden Test against the world's number one ranked side is a seal of further approval on their meteoric rise in international cricket.
"It has been a beautiful journey for them," said Karthik. "It is an inspiration for international cricket. Everyone knows (Afghanistan) is a tough place and the turmoil that they are going through, yet they are able to inspire people with their performances."
"They have been able to produce big players even in a tournament like the Indian Premier League. They came through the qualifiers and secured a World Cup berth. Today they are household names, and you have to credit them as they have beaten all odds and lack of infrastructure. If many countries take that route and challenge, it will be a fabulous story (for cricket)," he added.