Tour of Zimbabwe have sort of become a tool for the BCCI selectors to blood in youngsters in the team. And rightly so, the not so strong opposition could mean less pressure and could provide the perfect start to their international careers.
While opposition may be pedestrian, conditions in Zimbabwe will test the likes of Mandeep Singh, Karun Nair and even KL Rahul, who have been broken through with eye catching scores in the domestic season and as well as during the recently concluded Indian Premier League.
Wickets in Zimbabwe are slow and hence it will be difficult for few in the team to pull off flashy strokes or trying to hit on the rise. Ramp shots, scoops, upper cuts and reverse sweeps, the ones that are so used in the Twenty20s have to be put away on this tour.
As a note of caution, team’s head coach Sanjay Bangar, summed up the challenge for the young squad. “Not many of them would have played in Zimbabwe and getting used to the conditions in such a short period would be a major challenge,” Bangar told BCCI.tv. “We don’t really have a lot of time there and we play our match straightaway. Passing on the information and experiences that we have had from the previous tour would be vital.”
Heeding coach Bangar’s words will be tougher but there is a precedent. In 2013 players with a healthy strike rate in IPL of over 130s, and those were deft at playing on the rise, had to change their approach in Zimbabwe conditions.
Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay all had a reputation of scoring quickly. But they quickly came to terms with the playing conditions. Their strike rates plummeted to below 100 and they applied a patient approach to run making and tried to play full quota of overs. The Zimbabwe bowlers too made things difficult for batting as they changed their pace consistently, making on the rise hitting a task.
Rahane took the role of anchoring the innings while Vijay and Dinesh Karthik provided support in the middle.
The nature of the wicket in Harare, where all the matches will be played in this tour, is such that teams rarely cross the 300-run mark. In the 2015 tour, 250-270 runs ended up as winning totals.
The only time when team totals crossed 300 was when Australia and South Africa toured Zimbabwe in 2014 in a tri-series. That was largely due to the hitting prowess of Glenn Maxwell and Mitch Marsh. Batsmen who were known to apply orthodox play, including the likes of David Warner, Aaron Finch and George Bailey had to sweat it out to score. For Indians, the same approach will work well for the team as bunch of them has excelled in the domestic season by being conservative.
Faiz Fazal, Mandeep, Rahul, Nair, Manish Pandey and Rayudu, have all tasted success in the Ranji Trophy and other domestic competitions by following similar approach.
A good tour from any of them could lay a platform for future and more importantly, it will catch the eyes of the selectors, who are keen to know who among the current crop have the temperament to survive in alien conditions.