Home side will hope to bounce back in second half of the limited-overs series
The second half of India’s tour of Zimbabwe will begin on Saturday (June 18) when the sides clash in the first of three Twenty20 Internationals at Harare Sports Club, with the home side hoping to bounce back after a 3-0 whitewash in the One-Day Internationals. But, unfortunately, injuries haven’t helped its cause.
Two big names in Sean Williams and Craig Ervine were excluded from Zimbabwe's 18-man squad for the three-match series – Ervine injured his hamstring in the first ODI and Williams fractured his finger at training soon after toss ahead of the second game. In their absence, the uncapped Tapiwa Mufudza has earned a call-up, along with Brian Chari and Tinotenda Mutombodzi.
More than the injuries, though, it is form that will be Zimbabwe's biggest hurdle. Whether a change in format leads to a change in results remains to be seen, but the side will need to dig deep.
The Zimbabwe fans have been disappointed, and that will certainly add to the players’ desperation to prove their calibre. But what has happened in the past could inspire them. When India toured Zimbabwe last year, the home side managed to draw the two-match T20I series with a ten-run win in the second game.
"We're not going to reflect too much on the one-dayers, we are just going to look to hit the ground running in T20s. We're going to try our best to turn things around, there's not much else I can say to that," said Graeme Cremer, the captain.
“I think it's motivating enough that the last T20 we played against India here is the one we won. It's motivating enough knowing how it felt when we won the last time, how good the crowd was and how we enjoyed that. Guys are looking forward to doing well and obviously having a disappointing one-day series makes us even more motivated to do well in the T20Is.”
However, India was a different team altogether back then, and its agenda this time is to provide more game time to the new faces. Four of them – Mandeep Singh, Rishi Dhawan, Jaydev Unadkat and Jayant Yadav – are yet to get a go. MS Dhoni, the captain, is expected to field some of them in the upcoming T20Is, meaning both Mandeep and Jayant are in line for an international debut.
Meanwhile, others in the squad will hope to continue pressing their cases. On his international debut in the third ODI, Fair Fazal, 30, scored a fluid half-century in an easy chase, but will he be persisted with in the T20Is or will Karun Nair return to the XI? KL Rahul – once considered a longer-format specialist – is on the rise in the limited-overs format, and he will want to continue to prove his ability as well. Yuzvendra Chahal, much like Rahul, has impressed so far, and will hope to keep his name in the reckoning.
This may have been a good tour for India so far, but its players still have lots to play for. The Zimbabwe bunch do, too, but for different reasons.
Zimbabwe: Graeme Cremer (capt), Sikandar Raza, Brian Chari, Tendai Chatara, Chamu Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura, Neville Madziva, Timycen Maruma, Hamilton Masakadza, Wellington Masakadza, Peter Moor, Tapiwa Mufudza, Tinotenda Mutombodzi, Richmond Mutumbami (wk), Taurai Muzarabani, Vusi Sibanda, Donald Tiripano, Malcolm Waller.
India: MS Dhoni (capt, wk), KL Rahul, Faiz Fazal, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Mandeep Singh, Rishi Dhawan, Jasprit Bumrah, Jayant Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jaydev Unadkat, Dhawal Kulkarni, Axar Patel.