Cricket is a great leveller an often-used phrase turned out to be an important lesson for the robust India under-23 team.
The squad which boasts of rising stars such as Unmukt Chand (captain of under-19 World Cup-winning team), Suryakumar Yadav (Mumbai Ranji player) and Ashok Menaria (Rajasthan player) was humbled by minnows Afghanistan by 28 runs in the final Group A fixture of the Asian Cricket Council Emerging Teams in Singapore on Thursday.
Put in to bat on a slow wicket, Afghanistan posted 184/7 in 50 overs before restricting India to 156/9. Off-spinner Mohammad Nabi (3/32) and leg-spinner Rahmat Shah (2/40) were the wreckers-in-chief as India succumbed to their first defeat in the eight-nation tournament.
The defeat, however, had no bearing on India’s fate. They have qualified for the semifinal, to be played against UAE on Friday. The final will be played on Sunday against the winner of the Pakistan under-23 versus Sri Lanka under-23 match.
“It’s an eye-opener. They played amazing cricket. Their fielding, especially in the 30-yard circle, was superb. Hats off to them. My boys didn’t hesitate to congratulate the Afghans,” said skipper Yadav, who represented the Mumbai Indians in the IPL.
The Afghanistan team is elated. “It’s a great feeling to beat India... this win will prepare us for the battles ahead,” Afghanistan skipper Mohammad Nabi told dna.