Afghanistan players during a practice session ahead of their historic Test against India
Afghanistan players during a practice session ahead of their historic Test against India

Bangalore: Statistically, it's a classic David vs Goliath showdown but contextually, it's the beginning of a historic new chapter in international cricket as world No 1 India take on a war-ravaged-but-resilient Afghanistan in their first ever Test match, in Bengaluru, on Thursday.

While majority of the sports fans, in soul and spirit, will be in Russia enjoying the surreal skills of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the eternal cricket romantic will try to derive his little pleasures of life watching Rashid Khan trying to hurry Shikhar Dhawan with a flipper or bowl a googly to Ajinkya Rahane.

There is always a nervous anticipation associated with performance of a new team but the politico-social narrative associated with Afghanistan gives the game a different context.

On the surface, it is just another Test match but it is much beyond that.

The Rashids, Mujeeb Zadrans and Mohammed Shahzads would like to put their best foot forward in trying to at least provide their countrymen a refuge in sporting success.

India have been Afghanistan's close allies and the Board of Control for Cricket in India has shown magnanimity in opening their stadiums so that the national team can practice.

But come Thursday, Ajinkya Rahane's India will not spare an inch as they are expected to put up a ruthless show.

Squads: India: Ajinkya Rahane (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, KL Rahul, Karun Nair, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Hardik Pandya, Shardul Thakur, Navdeep Saini, Ravichandran Ashwin. Ravindra Jadeja. Kuldeep Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav;

Afghanistan: Ashgar Stanikzai, Mohammed Shahzad, Javed Ahmadi, Rahmat Shah, Ihsanullah Janat, Nasir Jamal, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Afsar Zazai, Mohammed Nabi, Rashid Khan, Zahir Khan, Amir Hamza Hotak, Sayed Ahmad Shirzad, Yamin Ahmadzai Wafadar, Mujeeb ur Rahman.