The historic Test between India and Afghanistan at Bengaluru's M Chinnaswamy Stadium is now less than 24 hours away. It will be the second time in a month that a nation debuted in the format.
It would undoubtedly be a massive occasion for the 11 Afghan players stepping out to the ground on Wednesday for their maiden appearance in Test cricket, and young Mujeeb Ur Rahman would be among those who would understand the dynamics of playing in front of a packed crowd at an Indian venue.
Mujeeb had caught the attention of many a cricket fan, pundit as well as the selectors back home when he impressed with his skill while playing for Kings XI Punjab in the recently-concluded Indian Premier League (IPL). The 17-year-old was sold to KXIP for a sum of Rs 4 crore, the price tag of which he would go on to justify later in the tournament, taking 14 wickets at an average of 20.64.
The teenage off-spinner however, revealed that he had begun his preparation for the inaugural Test in the IPL itself, having spent some time practicing at the M Chinnaswamy ahead of KXIP's second match of IPL 2018, which was against Royal Challengers Bangalore with the side getting four days to train at the venue.
"I had already done my preparations for the historic Test at Bengaluru during the IPL. Because I had confidence of my name appearing in the Test squad.
I adjusted myself to the wickets, and other than that, I will continue to learn from seniors Rashid (Khan) and (Mohammad) Nabi. I prepared my mindset for the Test match, because I had been thinking of the Test during the IPL, and had practiced for four days at Bengaluru," Mujeeb was quoted as saying in a recent interaction with Firstpost.
The young spinner has had a plenty to learn in his nascent career so far, not only from his accomplished teammates such as Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi, but also from his captain in the IPL and a fellow off-spinner, Ravichandran Ashwin.
"Ashwin told me 'You’re bowling very well. You’re going quite well.' (He) Told me the areas where to bowl, which a captain normally does.
"He also taught me a new delivery, one that he told me would come in handy on the longer run. So I’ve been working on that ball after the IPL. He told me it might hurt my fingers a bit, and might take a while for me to adjust. Ashwin was like a mentor," added Mujeeb, who singled out Virat Kohli as his dream wicket.
The IPL has helped shape many a young cricketer in the past, and has been responsible for the emergence of several talented youngsters who would later go on to ply their trade for India and other senior national teams. Rashid himself has become something of a superstar after his heroics for Sunrisers Hyderabad, as well as for several other teams in the Big Bash League, Pakistan Super League, Bangladesh Premier League etc.
When asked about the impact that the IPL had on him, Mujeeb pointed towards the surge of confidence that he felt after playing 11 games for Punjab this year, especially when it came to his performances against Bangladesh in the recently-concluded T20I series.
"You’ll find every category of players in the IPL... One of its benefits was that I was playing with a relaxed state of mind, knowing that this (Bangladesh T20I series) was one level below the IPL," said Mujeeb.
While Afghanistan are lead by Asgar Stanikzai, India miss out on the services of skipper Kohli, as well as regular wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha. While Ajinkya Rahane leads in Kohli's place, Dinesh Karthik makes his comeback into the Indian Test side, after a gap of eight years.