1st ODI, Harare
With the young Indian team under MS Dhoni conquering two important ODI trophies over the last month, a new-look (even younger) Indian team will take on Zimbabwe for another overseas series- this time, bilateral.
While many may view this series as highly inconsequential and unnecessary given the continuous barrage of cricket played by India since February, the young team knows that Zimbabwe will figure as an important part of their lives. A few of them struggled in alien West Indian conditions, and these pitches in Zimbabwe could serve as a modest audition for the much-important tour of South Africa later this year. It will be a stepping stone for Kohli’s India, with youngsters like Rasool, Unadkat and Pujara (a test gem by now) set to enter the team.
This is only the fourth trip India will be making to Zimbabwe since 2000, and pose an important test for Zimbabwe- who are still finding their bearings after returning to Test cricket recently. After Pakistan and Sri Lankan visits to their shores in 2013, things are looking up for Zimbabwean cricket after a decade.
Brendan Taylor, the captain, averages the highest against India in the team (46), and will lead a settled top order against an untested Indian bowling attack- without Ashwin, Ishant or Yadav. Other experienced players like Ray Price, Mazakadza, Chigumbura and Utseya will form the backbone of a largely bits-and-pieces side that can definitely cause more than a few upsets to a touring Indian side. They will definitely remember the tri-series here back in 2010 with Sri Lanka, where India failed to make the final after losing two games to Zimbabwe in the group stages. It was also the last time Rohit Sharma had scored an ODI century.
Kohli will lead a side that includes magicmanJadeja and star openers Dhawan and Rohit in new avatars. Their acclimatization to conditions will not be much of an issue, with players like Pujara and Rohit having toured in A sides over the years. Many of these youngsters will be looking to put their best foot forward after an iffy triseries inWest Indies which they barely managed to pull off- and will have their eyes on the South African tour later this year. All eyes will be on Pujara, who is sure to make his ODI debut in a largely competitive and crowded Indian batting order- and will be vying for a slot with the likes of Karthik in the long run.
The first ODI will be Zimbabwe’s best chance to catch a jetlagged India by surprise- but Kohli and his team will have learned the perils of starting a series slowly by now. This could be a big series for Amit Mishra, making his comeback, pairing up with Jadeja as India’s new spin twins.