After winning the ODI series against Afghanistan 3-0, West Indies now face them in a one-off Test. This encounter may appear trivial at first but if one looks closely, it holds great significance for both sides involved.
As far as the Afghans are concerned, having earned Test status last year, they are still in the infancy of their journey in the longest format of the game. Every Test affords an opportunity to improve and show they are worth this distinction.
For West Indians also, this match has great value. Over the years, Windies have really struggled against spin bowling, especially in the subcontinent. Last year, they got pummeled by Bangladesh in a 2-match Test series. Afghanistan may not be very strong but they do have some ability in the spin department.
Through this series, West Indies batsmen can work on improving their spin-playing capabilities. With the series against India coming up, this match can also be seen as a warm-up for tougher challenges ahead.
What would be interesting to see is the performance of Rashid Khan. An excellent bowler in both T20s and ODIs, he struggled in his debut Test against India. But then, against Ireland, he made changes in his bowling style and had a successful time. He would fancy his chances against the West Indian batsmen.
For some reason, batsmen from the Caribbean these days are unable to react to the length of the ball while playing spin. Instead, they prefer to stay on the backfoot most of the time. This would give Rashid a great opportunity as his style of bowling flatter and quicker might come in handy. However, for long term success, he needs to work on flighting the ball and bowling it slower.
The batting department of Afghanistan looks relatively new. The most important name there is Asghar Afghan. He is the most experienced, and possibly the most capable batsman in the line-up. However, there are some other men who will be exciting to watch also. Most prominently, the teenage sensation Ikram Ali Khil.
This 19-year old wicketkeeper-batsman has great potential which has been seen in limited-overs cricket. But he won't be the only youngster in the batting line-up. Several other players with little experience will have to deal with the West Indian bowlers.
These bowlers will include the captain of Windies team Jason Holder. Somebody who has gone from being a liability to the most dependable performer, Holder was able to get wickets last year in subcontinental conditions, including a five-for against India. This is a rare quality and shows his class.
The other seamers have to still prove themselves in unfriendly conditions. In all likelihood, Kemar Roach would play due to the experience he brings. Both the frontline spinners in the Windies squad – Rahkeem Cornwall and Jomel Warrican – performed well in the practice match against Afghanistan. This suggests both will be picked.
West Indies have been searching for a reliable Test spinner for a very long time. This Test would give a great opportunity for both of them to show that they could be the answer.