On a high after a clean sweep in the just concluded One-Day International (ODI) series, the new-look India team led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni will aim to continue their domination when they take on Zimbabwe in the first game of three-match Twenty20 International (T20I) series in Harare on Saturday.
After inflicting a 3-0 ODI series whitewash on the hosts, the young Indian side will look to pull off an encore in the shortest format of the game and end the tour with a perfect record.
The ODI series was thoroughly dominated by the young Indians some of whom made their international debut. Opening batsman Lokesh Rahul, who was adjudged the Man of the Series along with Faiz Faisal, made the most of the opportunity to take the team to a comfortable victory against a hapless Zimbabwe side while leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal starred with the ball.
But ahead of the T20I series, the hosts will take some encouragement from past results agaist India. In 2015, the Ajinkya Rahane-led India were held to a 1-1 draw in the T20I series after they lost the second match. Kedar Jhadhav and Manish Pandey, who are also on the tour this time around, will be well aware of the past results.
After an easy outing in the ODI series, Dhoni will like to try out in the T20Is Mandeep Singh, Jayant Yadav and Jaydev Unadkat who have warmed the bench till now.
Rahul, Pandey and Ambati Rayudu are almost certain in the T20I line-up. But, it will be a choice between Karun Nair and young Faiz Fazal for the opener’s spot.
Nair got to play in the first two ODIs, scoring 39 in the second game after failing in the first, but Fazal impressed in his first outing in international arena, scoring maiden half-century which came in a winning cause.
Nair has been consistent for Indian Premier League (IPL) sides Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Daredevils, but Fazal hasn’t featured in the cash-rich league since 2011.
On the other hand, Zimbabwe, after surrendering to a dominant India in the ODI series, will aim to give it all and put up some fight in the shortest format of the game and upset the visitors.
But the hosts suffered a blow when senior players Sean Williams and Craig Ervine were ruled out after suffering injuries during the ODIs.
Ervine injured his hamstring in the first ODI, while Williams, who replaced him for the second game, fractured his finger at training soon after the toss.
Tendai Chisoro and Tawanda Mupariwa, who were part of the ODI squad, have been left out, while the uncapped Tapiwa Mufudza earned a call-up.
Brian Chari and Tinotenda Mutombodzi, who last played an international game in late 2015, were also recalled, while Chamu Chibhabha, who last played T20Is in January, was picked following decent returns in the ODI series.
Among the notable omissions from the ICC World T20 squad, in which the Africans failed to qualify for the main round, are Tinashe Panyangara, out with a back injury, and Luke Jongwe.
Despite the loss in their last T20I outing in the country, the series is expected to be a smooth ride for second-ranked India against the No.12-ranked hosts.