Decided Not To Be Intimidated, Nabi To Write Code For The' 'Afghanistan Path' > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - Determined, not overawed, Nabi rewrites code for the 'Afghanistan way'

With his audacious hitting, Nabi kept Afghanistan in the hunt till the very last, and India on their toes.

"It's my favourite team. Always my favourite team, and I support Indian team when I'm watching Indian team. So now and you also -- and also, my favourite is also Virat Kohli, and I played against him. So today I missed the opportunity to beat them. But India is one of the best teams now."

Gulbadin Naib, struggling for words in a foreign language, left no one in doubt about what he felt towards the team that had knocked them out of the World Cup on Saturday evening. There's perhaps no other international team that makes their love for an opponent so well-known. It brought back memories of Afghanistan's inaugural Test match in Bangalore, a game that turned out to be a no-contest as Afghanistan were bowled out twice in a day. They now train and play even 'home' games in India, and it's easy to join the dots to see why they'd want to emulate them.

Seconds before he professed his love for India, Naib stopped and struggled for words, but this time overcome with the emotion he was going through after the loss. Yet, that cheery turnaround had been swift. Further back in the day, Naib, went into a pose showing off his biceps after picking up the wicket of Mohammed Shami. A few deliveries later, he got Kedar Jadhav as well. But just as he began raising his arms again for a similar celebration, he cut it short. And ran away with a big smile instead. It was his way of showing respect for an innings well played. The turnaround, swift again. You could also see why the Afghanistan team is easy to like.

There are telling tales about their crises off the field, that sometimes find their way onto the field. Yet, as we saw against India, the one thing that has kept them going is a simple desire to play their hearts out. Hamid Hassan called it the "Afghanistan way". There's also a certain street-smartness about their cricket that is easier to relate to than most teams. After all it's a team filled with players who are mostly self-taught.

But while this might give them brownie points off the field, it simply isn't enough to fetch the results that matter at the highest level. Especially, when they're up against teams that "give them no chance" as Naib described India.

If at all Afghanistan had to have a chance, it had to be through a lot more than wide-eyed optimism. And so they came with plans. They preferred opening with Mujeeb ur Rahman for the match-up against Rohit Sharma. It is no longer news that the Indian opener struggles to pick mystery spinners early, and it was exploited to perfection. Rahmat Shah, a more than useful part-time legspinner, was brought on as soon as MS Dhoni came to the crease. This was about playing on the pressure that is on Dhoni. Does he risk taking on a part-timer early. It left the experienced man erring on the safer side as he trudged along to a 52-ball 28. But between Rahman's opening spell and Rahmat coming in, Afghanistan still had to bridge another gap.

There's nobody better suited for this particular job in the Afghanistan team as Mohammad Nabi, with ball or bat. With the former, he might seem to be darting friendly offies, but Nabi is a cut above the rest, insist those who know him well. He bowls with a batsman's mindset and it is with this central idea that he does his variations, in angle and with the pace of the ball that simply don't allow batsmen to get after him more often. Seemingly innocuous deliveries get him wickets, and today he got two of them- KL Rahul and Virat Kohli.

With the bat, Nabi is ageing, he isn't the explosive batsman he once was. But, he has enough IPL experience to not have stars in his eyes. He was unwilling to take his eye off the target even against a rampaging Jasprit Bumrah, pulling him for an audacious six along the way. This temperament was spreading along to his lesser-skilled batsmen who hung around for important partnerships. He was determined to take the game deep. Mohammed Shami later confessed to being irritated by Nabi's innings, but something he preferred to not outwardly show.

Nabi has a photo as a youngster, years ago, clicked with a long-maned Dhoni. It is easy to find on the internet. Like Dhoni, he too sports a No. 7 jersey. It'd be no surprise if he too at some point confesses his love for Dhoni. But today was not that day. Today was when he left Dhoni rushing across to the bowlers every second delivery, leaving him one-gloved for a possible run-out, making him bring the fields in to try and keep him off strike.

Today was the day Nabi very, very nearly showed Afghanistan that there could be heroes worth emulating, without being overawed. And perhaps taking another big step in their eventful journey.

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