Afghanistan would be living a dream when they meet India in the one-off Test, beginning in Bengaluru on Thursday, and they would go all out to make a difference. India, on the other hand, need to be careful that they don't slip on a potential banana skin as they come into the game without any match-practice and without leader Virat Kohli. Stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane does not really exude the same poise as captain and with Afghanistan having nothing to lose, it could get interesting. 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.
There is always a nervous anticipation associated with the 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 BCCI has shown magnanimity in opening their stadiums so that the national team can practice.
India, sans Virat Kohli along with two frontline bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, will look to record a comprehensive win before embarking on their long and grueling tour of England.
For Afghanistan, it will be a battle of attrition that they have never ever faced before. Test cricket is a different beast and prodigal leg-spinner Rashid Khan's real battle starts now.
That he is a brilliant four-over bowler is a known and acknowledged fact.
However, the acid Test will start when he bowls that fifth over. The intelligence will be tested during the 15th over, patience during the 23rd over and endurance during the 40th over.
More importantly, will Rashid be able to maintain his quick arm speed over after over.
As Afghanistan coach Phil Simmons said, his men won't understand what Test cricket is until they get onto the field.
With no pressure of asking rate, a Murali Vijay or a Cheteshwar Pujara, if set, will play at their own pace. The Indian batsmen in their own backyard are not known to pull back punches.
That Afghanistan have no idea how difficult it can get could be gauged from their skipper Asghar Stanikzai's pompous claims that his spinners are better than the home team.
When Dinesh Karthik was asked, his singular statement made it clear what the team thought about it.
"Our Kuldeep Yadav (2 Tests) has played more first-class games than all their spinners put together. I know from where its coming but I wouldn't to harp too much on that," Karthik said.
However, the Indians having watched and played against Rashid will be wary of what he can do.
That's the reason the Indian team management might just prefer a hard bouncy track knowing full well that a rank turner could boomerang on them.
But whatever be the outcome, "a beautiful journey" has already begun for Afghanistan.
India: Ajinkya Rahane (capt), 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 (capt), Mohammed Shahzad (wk), 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.
(With PTI inputs)