India's stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane acknowledged the progress Zimbabwe has made in the one-day international (ODI) format, saying the Indian team respects the hosts and will not take them lightly in the three-match series, beginning on Friday.
Rahane, who is leading India for the first time, insisted that the team has moved on from the ODI series defeat in Bangladesh and is "here to win games" in the short tour comprising three ODIs and a couple of Twenty20 Internationals. "Bangladesh is in the past now for us. We are thinking about the present series and our plan will be to back our strengths and back our games, rather than looking at Zimbabwe's strengths. Give our best and play to our potential. We are here to win games," said Rahane.
India won all their games when they toured Zimbabwe in 2013 but the young skipper is expecting tougher competition this time around. "We all know that Zimbabwe is a good side. They have been playing pretty well recently and we are expecting a good series here. The boys are looking forward to the series and we are not taking Zimbabwe lightly. We are respecting them, and respecting their cricket. We have got to play good cricket.
"They have got a pretty balanced side. They played pretty well in Pakistan, and they have good, experienced batsmen. Good all-rounders and bowlers. And they are getting better day by day. So we respect them, but at the same time we will play our own cricket," he said.
Asked about the new ODI rules being implemented in the series, Rahane said they would take the "wait and watch" approach. "It is the first game with the new playing conditions. After the first game we will develop an idea about what sorts of strategies we need to use for the new rules. But it is quite exciting, with new fielding restrictions and free hits off all no-balls. It is very exciting, but we have to wait and watch how these new rules will go forward."
The Mumbai cricketer is also excited about captaincy, a responsibility given to him after he was dropped from the playing eleven in Bangladesh. "It is a new challenge for me in my career. I am looking forward to it. I normally visualise the situation when I play the game, whenever I get the opportunity to play. So I have brought a few ideas with me, and I have got my own style of captaincy, but I have learned a lot from Dhoni bhai under his captaincy. So I am looking forward to bringing this talented bunch of guys here and doing well as a captain.
"In a positive way, it is a good opportunity for all of us to express ourselves. We are taking Zimbabwe very seriously. This is a good platform to showcase our talent here, do well at the international level. Everywhere we go, we take every opponent very seriously. We want to play our game and back our strengths."