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All eyes on India’s playing XI

Zimbabwe must learn from its mistakes, while the team India puts on the field will indicate the priorities of the team management

All eyes on India’s playing XI - Cricket News
Zimbabwe will look to reduce their fielding lapses which costed them the second ODI.

For much of this tour, the biggest question in the mind of Indian supporters has been what exactly their team hopes to achieve from the five matches.

Come Sunday (July 28) morning, they should get a better idea about the team management’s priorities when the Indian side for the third One-Day International against Zimbabwe is confirmed.

The two matches thus far have largely been one sided, with India only inconvenienced in the second game when it had to counter a moderate amount of pressure in either innings. But it has become clear that the inexperienced Zimbabweans cannot be relied upon to provide a stern test against the best XI from India’s squad.

Asked whether he believed Zimbabwe was capable of coming back and cause an upset, Shikhar Dhawan said, somewhat charitably, “I feel Zimbabwe is playing good cricket and there’s always a chance, but we’d like to win all of the games.”

India’s selection for the third match will give an idea of just how much it hopes to learn about their less-tested members of the squad. Will India, for instance, replace Dhawan with Cheteshwar Pujara since it knows what the former is capable of, and would like to see more of the latter? Or will India prioritise winning every game and leave all of the more established players in?

One change, which seems certain, is the removal of R Vinay Kumar, who has struggled in both matches, conceding 106 runs in 18 overs. With the fast bowlers behind him ready to prove their worth, Vinay’s poor performances have come at a very bad time for his international career. Mohit Sharma should earn a run in the remaining games, having impressed in recent times, especially for Chennai Super Kings during the 2013 Indian Premier League season.

Then there is the question of what to do about Suresh Raina, who has been guilty of two tame dismissals, and has now scored just 144 runs in his last ten ODI innings. Do the selectors give him the opportunity to find form in these easier conditions, or give him a break and offer Ajinkya Rahane a chance?

As for Zimbabwe, the logical course of action would surely be to back the same XI that played the second ODI. They are the best XI that the country can muster, and chopping and changing will only dent their fragile confidence further.

There is no doubting the hard work that they have put in over the last ten weeks, or the fact that they are more than capable players, but their inability to learn from their mistakes continues to cause their supporters regular heartache, one suspects.

“What's quite frustrating is we should be learning from the opposition,” Andy Waller, the coach, said after the second ODI. “We look at guys like (Virat) Kohli and them bat: they don't play too many rash shots, they just keep it simple and we should be learning from that. And we're not. And we've got to start doing that, otherwise we're going to find it difficult.”

The match being on a Sunday, there should be a healthy crowd at Harare Sports Club, as it’s the first weekend fixture at Zimbabwe’s biggest cricket venue since October 2011. That would make it a good occasion for Zimbabwe to put in the sort of performance that will keep the public coming back for more.

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