Zaheer strikes twice, Zim 2 down

Electing to bat against India in Bulawayo, the hosts lost two early wickets of Taylor and Hamilton.

india Updated: Sep 13, 2005 19:51 IST

Zimbabwe have won the toss and elected to bat in the first cricket Test against India in Bulawayo beginning Tuesday.

India will look to stamp their authority right from day one to ensure a big victory against the minnows.

Sourav Ganguly and his men know that anything less than a crushing win would be deemed a below par performance by critics back home.

Unlike in one-dayers, Indians are a handful in Tests and even the debacle against Pakistan early in 2005 ended in a 1-1 scorecard in the end. Against Zimbabwe, it should be a matter of when and not whether they would win the Test series.

Still the intensity with which new coach Greg Chappell "roasted" them in the nets in Mutare would suggest they all would be under a scanner over the next five days.

Ganguly and VVS Laxman can expect a close scrutiny of their form and Mohammad Kaif has all to play for in his stop-and-start Test career.

There are others who would not be breathing any easier either. Dinesh Kaarthick can feel the presence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni over his shoulder.

It is a tremendous task for the home team to not only hold off Indians in the Tests but also somehow drive their point against their own cricket board over the contracts issue.

Things have simmered further in the last few days with reports of players asking for a reshuffle at the top in the Board and even venturing to meet the sports commission for an "informal" talk on the issue.

The Indians arrived in Bulawayo only on Sunday night after a rather curious travel plan. They finished the warm-up game on Saturday, headed for Harare next afternoon and then took the flight for Bulawayo in the evening.

More than one player has questioned the logic of arriving at the Test venue just a day before the game, leave alone the wisdom of holding a warm-up game in a distant hinterland.

It is an irony that the expected Indian triumph should raise so little cheer especially since they have never beaten Zimbabwe in an away Test series.

It is not often that India wins a series abroad but this would not count much given the calibre of the opposition. Indians can go through this with their eyes blind-folded. It is another matter though that the stern engagements ahead would need more from them than to just keep their eyes wide open.

For records, India and Zimbabwe have played nine Tests and the former has triumphed in five of them. Zimbabwe too has twice gone past them in Harare. In Zimbabwe, the stat, astonishingly, is 2-1 in the hosts' favour from four games.

First Published: Sep 13, 2005 11:35 IST