It was a tour than began in disaster, and ended it joy. More importantly though it was a journey that gave us an insight into what the future holds for India. And, while it is too early to predict anything, one thing is for sure; the lessons learnt from the defeats will teach the young guns a lot more than what a straightforward win would have done.
When the Indians embarked on this African sojourn, it was seen as a foregone conclusion that they alongwith Sri Lanka would progress to the final, despite arriving here with second-string teams. However, while the Lankans kept the promise and captured the cup, albeit with some hiccups along the way, the Indians fell by the wayside.
A number of factors were responsible for India’s failure. Most importantly, the Indians possessed the weakest bowling line-up of all the three teams. The likes of Ashok Dinda and Umesh Yadav are fit only for the T20 version as of now. This was evident in the disparity of their performances in the two formats.
While they were complete non-performers in the 50-over version, the same duo made life difficult for Zimbabweans in the 20-over format. This clearly signifies that players should not be blooded into one-day cricket on the basis of their IPL performances. No doubt, the duo possesses raw talent, but it needs to be nurtured and, for that, they need to be given time.
The same was the case with Murali Vijay, who was at ease in the ‘IPL’ version, but struggled in the longer format even against average bowling attacks. And hence, the selection of Saurabh Tiwary for Asia Cup sticks out as a sore thumb.
One hopes he proves me wrong, but on recent evidence, it is a clear case of playing with fire. Wouldn’t it have been better to pick a Robin Uthappa, who had a great IPL but, more importantly, has international exposure as well to his advantage?
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is probably an exception to the rule. He looked at ease in sole ODI he played on the tour, and even in the T20s.
Ashwin’s ability to toss up the ball and fox the batsman has already made him a man to watch out for. And, even in the limited opportunities he got, he proved his worth. Further, his batting effort on one-day debut stands testimony to his ability and character.
This lanky Tamil Nadu player is one who could do India proud in the future. The decision-makers need to utilize his talent to the hilt with Harbhajan Singh now on the wane.
The tour was also a great learning curve for Suresh Raina, who was appointed captain for the series. And while he struggled for most part, it was good to see him sign off on a high. Raina had already improved by leaps and bounds in the few weeks that he led the side.
Whereas, in the beginning he was holding himself back and hoping others hit the spotlight, towards the end he had realized that, whatever the situation, the captain must lead from the front. In this context, his knock in the final T20 at Harare was a landmark. It was a match in which the left-hander went out and expressed himself.
The results were bound to follow. This series should stand Raina in good stead both as a batsman and a leader, if he gets the opportunity to captain India again.
The two major positives for India from the series were the heartening performances of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. While the Mumbai lad silenced a lot of critics with back-to-back hundreds, the ex-India U19 skipper ensured that he cemented his place in the Indian middle-order even further.
Undoubtedly, Sharma and Kohli are the future of India’s batting, and it is essential for them to stay fit and in form with the World Cup coming around, more so since Yuvraj Singh’s temporarily lost his silken touch. Yusuf Pathan also shone towards the end, and hence one can only say that his axing was a decision taken in haste.
The Asia Cup is India’s next target, and while the experienced hands will be back for the four-nation tourney, India would do well to make a note of the lessons from the Zimbabwean safari.