In spite to being pitted against a second-string Indian side, one has to say that Zimbabwe’s win in the opening encounter of the tri-series was nothing short of an upset. After all, Zimbabwe have been playing with a makeshift team themselves for half a decade.
Even so, this series presents them with a great opportunity to gain some much-needed experience and start the process of getting their cricket back on track. The comprehensive victory against India was a perfect step in this direction.
Even since their top players quit the scene owing to political instabilities, Zimbabwe have struggled to put together 11 men to take the field and also to find an opposition, with most teams backing out when the crisis was at its peak.
And so, with India and Sri Lanka arriving in the African nation, Zimbabwe stand to gain the most, irrespective of the result.
There were plenty of positives in the opening game itself for Zimbabwe as they took full advantage of the inexperienced Indians and handed them a rude jolt. Among the ones who were particularly impressive was a debutant named Craig Ervine, who batted with nerves of steel to guide the team home in what should have been a tough chase even against a weakened Indian bowling line-up.
True, he was helped to a great extent by the enormous start that the openers gave the home side. Still, it can never be easy for a first-timer to go out in the middle under tough circumstances and see things through to the very end.
The fact that Ervine succeeding in staying at the crease till the winning runs were hit should stand him in good stead, at least for some of the future matches.
It wasn’t the debutant alone, though, who stood up to be counted. The most striking aspect of Zimbabwe’s win was that each and every batsman made a significant contribution during the chase.
The intent to win, which was a hallmark of 90s’ Zimbabwe even when they lost, was palpable in this bunch of players. And so, they went out with a positive attitude, which worked wonders for the spirit of the team.
The openers Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor handled the newbie Indian bowlers with consummate ease and the confidence only rubbed off on the rest. And, every time Zimbabwe looked in a spot of bother, there was someone to bail them out, be it Ervine, Charles Coventry or newly-elected skipper Elton Chigumbura, who hit the winning runs.
This was one of the key factors that contributed to Zimbabwe’s elusive triumph against a Test-playing nation, apart from Bangladesh.
On the contrary, India shouldn’t read too much into the defeat. Considering the lack of experience in the side, they were bound to struggle even against Zimbabwe.
The best they can do is have a peek at what some of their youngsters like Ashok Dinda, Umesh Yadav and Vinay Kumar are capable of and look forward to build a team from there for bigger battles.
All three mentioned are pace bowlers, a department in which the cupboard is definitely looking bare, and hence rather significant. The World Cup is now only months away, so India cannot afford to play merry-go-round for long.
This series should give them an opportunity to shortlist some of the rookies, who they believe can come in handy during the mega event.
Having seen their ragged performance in the opening game, it is evident that they have a lot of hard work to do. But, this is just the start for Suresh Raina and co.
The valiant knocks from Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja, though in a losing cause, should inspire the newer members of the team to pull up their socks.
While there isn’t much for the viewers to gain from watching this experimental series, the same cannot be said for the teams.
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