For inexplicable reasons, India don’t have fond memories of Zimbabwe. They have not been at their prime here, allowing their rivals to punch above their weight despite languishing at the bottom of the rankings.
In the last two decades, India have played 20 One-day internationals on Zimbabwean soil, winning 12 and losing eight. That’s a win-loss ratio India won’t be proud of. And it’s not often, like in 2010 or this time around, that India have travelled to Zimbabwe with a second-string side.
However, for an Indian cricket fan, Zimbabwe brings back memories of the controversial 2005 tour. It was here that Greg Chappell’s controversial tenure as India coach began.
The Australian had a bitter feud with Sourav Ganguly, who was skipper when he took over but was sacked, after the coach suggested he sit out a match on a tour of Zimbabwe.
Unless Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja choose to continue their on-field sparring from the Caribbean, there is unlikely to be any Chappell-Ganguly kind of face-off.
Thus India will be keen to set the record straight when they play the first of five ODI’s, beginning with Wednesday’s game at the Harare Sports Club.
The failure last time — India did not reach the final of the tri-series — has not stopped the selectors from naming a second-string team.
In fact, the team led by Raina in 2010 lost both its matches to Zimbabwe. Raina did lead the side to an ODI series win in the West Indies the next year but Virat Kohli, emerging as MS Dhoni’s possible successor, will lead this time.
While Kohli led admirably in the Caribbean this month when Dhoni suffered a hamstring strain, his captaincy skills will be tested over the next fortnight in Dhoni’s absence.
Kohli does have previous captaincy experience, having led India to the U-19 World Cup title in 2008 and the Royal Challengers Bangalore side.
Like Dhoni, he also likes to lead by example, as he did recently with a blistering century in Port of Spain. “I always like to lead form the front and set an example for whoever is playing with me or around me. I like taking responsibilities,” Kohli said.
The short series also holds importance for many in the team.
Dinesh Karthik would like to cement his place; Cheteshwar Pujara would want to prove himself, having waited for long to make his ODI debut while Ambati Rayudu too is desperate to make his debut. Ajinkya Rahane makes his comeback.
In bowling, off-spinner R Ashwin and pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav have been rested.
R Vinay Kumar, with 22 ODI appearances, will spearhead the attack and team up with Shami Ahmed and leg-spinner Amit Mishra against Brendan Taylor’s side.