Bengaluru find new fan favorite in Mohammad Shahzad
Mohammad Shahzad. Not Sunrisers Hyderabad and Afghanistan spin maestro, Rashid Khan or the 17-year-old spin sensation Mujeeb Ur Rahman, it was Shahzad who was the darling of the Bengaluru crowd on day one of Afghanistan's first taste of Test cricket.
As Afghanistan lost the toss and were asked to field, the 30-year-old didn't get the opportunity to light the stadium on fire with his dazzling array of strokes. He was also not given the gloves as Afsar Zazai was given that responsibility but that didn't stop Shahzad from quickly winning over the crowd on a day when his team struggled until the very end.
It all began even before his spectacular diving catch off Rashid Khan's bowling while fielding at first slip deep. Although that catch went in vain as a review showed that it hit nothing but Shikhar Dhawan's pad, Shahzad's acrobatics helped him the admiration of a crowd he had already started to win over.
Ironic jeers might have been what it started as but the 30-year-old transformed those jeers into cheers with his acrobatic display on the field. Whether it was keeping up the morale and the energy with enthusiastic gestures before lunch or crucial dives to stop the ball from going past him, Shahzad made his presence felt on the field.
As the day wore on, his fielding earned him the adulation of the home crowd. There were cheers any time he went to field near the boundary ropes and his mere walk to his fielding position brought about a huge eruption from a crowd that had otherwise been a dormant volcano when the scoring rate started to dip.
He was undoubtedly the cynosure of the Chinnaswamy crowd, which started to heap him with plenty of support. So much so, that he even doffed his cap to a sizable contingent of Indian supporters, whose support for him reverberated throughout the stadium. With the crowd to back him up, he even added a few exaggerated throws from the deep with an extra bit of oomph and theatrics for good measure.
After a diving well to his right and stopping a KL Rahul cover drive, he also went up to the Indian batsman and had a quick chat. That was far from the only time he had a quiet word with the batsmen, who were making merry in the first two sessions.
Extra cover: Rashid Khan's Test debut: A day of two halves
Shahzad had, in a matter of few hours become a crowd favorite and earned the support and respect of the crowd at the Chinnaswamy. Yet, despite all the support the Afghanistan star received, the day's loudest cheers though were reserved for the hometown hero, KL Rahul, who awakened the drowsy Bengaluru crowd just after lunch.
Not only was there a standing ovation as he entered the crease at No.3 shortly after lunch but chants of "KL Rahul" was reverberating throughout the ground from the moment he entered. Every boundary was cherished and his dismissal brought cries of anguish from the crowd.
But for much of the day, Bengaluru had a new fan favorite and that came in the unlikely shape of Afghanistan's Mohammad Shahzad.