India are touring Zimbabwe for a series for the first time since 2010, when a second-string team, captained by Suresh Raina, participated in a tri-series also involving Sri Lanka. The team failed to reach the final of the tournament. They also played two T20 Internationals against the home team, winning both of them.
This time, a young squad, led by Virat Kohli, will play 5 ODIs against a Zimbabwe team that hasn’t been playing regular international cricket off late. India is currently the number 1 ranked ODI side in the ICC rankings, having won 4 out of their last 5 tournaments. There had been concerns about this tour, which some wanted to be called off citing the “fatigue factor”.
However, this series offers plenty of opportunities and will provide food-for-thought for the Indian selectors and team management.
Here are 5 reasons why having the India-Zimbabwe ODI series is a good idea:
1. Chance for young players from domestic cricket to showcase their skills
The likes of Parvez Rasool, Mohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu have a wonderful chance to excel and bring themselves into contention for future selection with the national team. These youngsters have impressed in domestic cricket/IPL and performing in the Zimbabwe series might just prove to be the beginning of an illustrious career.
2. Opportunity for Kohli to prove his captaincy credentials
The tour offers Kohli his first opportunity to lead the side for a full series and gives him the chance to prove his captaincy credentials. He did captain the team in the West Indies tri-series, but the presence of MS Dhoni in the dressing room meant that Dhoni was the one calling the shots in important team decisions.
Kohli has the chance to silence all his captaincy doubters, and a good show here will go a long way in establishing him as the one who would take over the captaincy once Dhoni decides to move on from that role.
3. Exposure to playing on African pitches and playing conditions
The young Indian players will get valuable experience of playing international cricket in Zimbabwe where the pitch and playing conditions are more likely to be similar to those in South Africa than in India. This tour, along with the A team squad’s visit to South Africa, will be a very good learning curve for the upcoming Indian cricketers.
Even a country like Australia, which has stopped cricketing relations with Zimbabwe over political reasons, sends their upcoming players to the country for the same reason.
4. Some welcome commercial spotlight on Zimbabwe cricket
A major incentive of hosting the Indian cricket team in an international tournament is the corporate spotlight that the tournament receives. This has been evident by the massive presence of Indian sponsors in all recent events where India have participated (Champions Trophy, West Indies tri-series, et al.).
The series will provide a major boost to Zimbabwe cricket, which has fallen behind due to lack of international exposure. It is hoped that funds will be generated, which will be used for the development of the game in the country. Also, an eye-catching performance by Zimbabwe players in the series might even help some of them bag coveted IPL contracts.
5. Potential support for BCCI from Zimbabwe in ICC votes
The Indian team tour comes at a time when not many test-playing nations are keen to visit Zimbabwe, for commercial and political reasons. This tour might just help BCCI strengthen its relationship with the Zimbabwe cricket board. Zimbabwe, being a full member of the ICC, can potentially offer India an extra vote of support in the various contentious debates that are going on in international cricket.