Preview: India vs Zimbabwe 2013, 4th ODI at Bulawayo

As the one-sided affair moves into the fourth match from Harare to Bulawayo, the Indians have ample of opportunity to chop and change to give the other players a chance to flex their skills © AFP

By Abhijit Banare

Jul 31, 2013
It was always going to be a battle of unequals with the No 10 One-Day International (ODI) team, Zimbabwe, challenging India, the world champions in the format. But Brendan Taylor’s comment after the third consecutive loss indicates that the series was surely lost in the mind before getting on the field. As the one-sided affair moves into the fourth match from Harare to Bulawayo, the Indians have ample of opportunity to chop and change to give the other players a chance to flex their skills.

Time for bench strength
It appears ironical to mention India trying its bench strength in the fourth ODI with the fact that the entire squad itself was structured with fringe players. Four of them are yet to receive their chance. Among them is one raging bull, yet to be unleashed at the opponents, in the form of Cheteshwar Pujara. The technically-compact batsman has been overlooked for Ambati Rayudu, but Pujara’s absence in the remaining matches would clearly defy logic. Even Ajinkya Rahane who has been consistently ignored might be allowed in place of either of the openers.
Among the other replacements, Parvez Rasool’s all-round skills should allow Ravindra Jadeja to watch the match from the comfort of the dressing room while Mohit Sharma will have a tough time to force his way into a relatively young pace attack.

What’s left for India
For players like Virat Kohli and Jadeja, this will be a series to conquer and take a much-needed break, but for all the new players, these matches are going to supply invaluable confidence and a benchmark to be included in the national side for the seven-match ODI series at home against Australia in October this year. Hence the story is not yet over with a series win.

Bowlers deliver the goods
The batting department was anyway expected to fire as it has always been through decades, but a remarkable presentation of disciplined bowling has left many smiling which meant that all the loose ends have been adequately covered so far. If Jaydev Unadkat and Shami Ahmed were good enough to add their value with accuracy, it’s heartening to see Amit Mishra still firing on all cylinders and making all the right noises with the ball. It seems that India’s bright days in the bowling are here to stay as they have managed to create a good back-up to an already splendid find in the form of Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Virat Kohli’s captaincy

The West Indies tri-series allowed Kohli a glimpse into the role of captaincy which just about matched up to his batting skills. The successful run in Zimbabwe ensures that the 24-year-old will be flying back to India well clear of the fact that he has lot more to offer than phenomenal batting abilities. If Kohli, under-pressure, can deliver with desired results, his confidence on Thursday’s dead rubber will be sky-high. Going by the adventurous ways he’s known to resort to; one can expect a few bold decisions in the remaining matches.

What’s in it for the home side

Without undermining the efforts of Zimbabwe, this series was always going to be a tough ask. Yet, Taylor will be eager to try out the new players to test the abilities of delivering against a formidable opposition. Those players who managed to notch up notable performances will be brimming with confidence. The home side has performed well in patches with a few partnerships clicking and a bagging few wickets to claw back India, but the efforts were far from productive to trouble anyone.
While India’s tour so far has gone according to the script easing to all the victories. Zimbabwe’s chances appear bleak unless Virat Kohli and his men let their guard down. However, that is unlikely to happen since a future ODI-spot is at stake for many with as a many as three of them in line for a fresh start to their career.

Zimbabwe (Probable): Vusi Sibanda, Sikandar Raza, Sean Williams, Hamilton Masakadza, Brendan Taylor (c & wk), Malcolm Waller, Elton Chigumbara, Prosper Utseya, Michael Chinouya, Tinotenda Mutombodzi, Tendai Chatara.
India (Probable): Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (c), Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Parvez Rasool, Vinay Kumar, Shami Ahmed, Jaydev Unadkat, Amit Mishra.

Time: 12.30 IST | 07.00 GMT
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)