India looked rather satiated when they started the Tri-Nation series in West Indies within a week off their Champions Trophy triumph and even though they lifted their game through the course of the series to win it eventually courtesy the brilliance of MS Dhoni, this short rest before the tour to Zimbabwe will be well appreciated.
Some of the key senior players have been rested for the series and that is definitely a good move. Virat Kohli gained valuable experience leading the side in the West Indies in the absence of MS Dhoni and he will have yet another opportunity to continue the good work in Zimbabwe.
There will be a number of goals that India would like to achieve in Zimbabwe but the first and foremost will be to get yet another victory under their belt and consolidate upon the top ranking that they have secured. Virat Kohli will have a bunch of new players at his disposal and he must find the best possible balance as quickly as possible.
This series will allow India to create a bigger pool of players for the future. India will play a critical series at home against Australia later in the year and a fine exhibition against Zimbabwe might help some players grab those couple of vacant spots.
On the other hand, the likes of Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik, Vinay Kumar and Shami Ahmed have just done enough at the Tri-Nation tournament and would like to put up a better showing against Zimbabwe.
Suresh Raina did not get a lot of opportunities to bat at the Champions Trophy as the top-order consistently delivered but his showing in West Indies was disappointing. He failed to get a half-century in the series when he had a handful of opportunities. He is a live-wire in the field and occasionally useful with the ball so his place is under no threat but he must make a greater contribution with the bat.
Dinesh Karthik forced his way into the Indian team with a number of eye-catching performances with the bat at the Indian premier League. He backed that up with two consecutive centuries in the warm-up matches prior to the Champions Trophy that earned him the number 4 spot in the star-studded Indian batting line-up.
He has failed to deliver ever since though he did not have a significant role to play in the Champions Trophy apart from a half-century against the West Indies. He averaged below 27.00 in ODI’s even though he has 62 matches to his name. He is a hugely gifted batsman who can play fast bowling and spin with equal elan and it will be good for Indian cricket if he can put some runs under his belt.
Vinay Kumar was surprisingly selected in the final match of the Tri-Series and even though he did not pick up any wicket, if he was very economical and on the money. He will have his opportunities against Zimbabwe as Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav have been rested. Shami Ahmed was part of India’s humiliating loss against Sri Lanka but he has impressed with his pace and work-ethic. He needs to gain experience and add a few more facets to his game and he can be a part of India’s plans for 2015.
The most prominent of the new faces who will be stepping onto the pitch in the shorter format of the game for the first time is Cheteshwar Pujara. The right-handed batsman averages over 65.00 in the 13 Test matches that he has played so far and his List A ODI career gives every indication that he can replicate the same success in the limited overs format of the game.
The tri-nation tournament saw the Indian middle order crumbling a number of times and he can provide that much required stability. Widely seen as the replacement to Rahul Dravid in the test side, he might be able to play a similar role in this side.
Ajinkya Rahane will get yet another opportunity at the International level. The selectors have been rather cruel to him dropping him abruptly prior to the Champions Trophy without much cause. Murali Vijay, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan’s presence in the squad does not augur well for him and he might have to slip down the batting order if he does get a chance in the team at some stage.
Amit Mishra will be India’s primary spinner in the absence of R.Ashwin and he has had to wait a long time for his chance. He has been with the Indian squad since the Champions Trophy but has not featured in any game. Parvez Rasool has made history by making the Indian squad but it is difficult to see how he’ll make the cut ahead of Mishra apart from a distant possibility that Mishra takes a hiding in the first few games.
Zimbabwe defeated Bangladesh in a three-match ODI series earlier this year in May and were competitive against the West Indies in February inspite of losing the series 3-0. They have some quality players who can swing the state of the players the most prominent of them being wicket-keeper batsman Brendan Taylor who has also taken up the leadership of the side. However, only a poor performance by this Indian squad can make this series competitive.