Lack of 50-over fight a worry for Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe won the first T20I and came within one hit of winning the third T20I. But they didn't come anywhere near winning anything in the ODI series, and were bowled out for 168, 126 and 123 in the three matches. It showed that it takes a far wider range of qualities, technical and mental, to compete over 100 overs and that Zimbabwe, in this series at least, lacked those qualities. It was a little perplexing to watch, because this was more or less the same set of players that had given India a scare during the ODI series last year.
Most of the issues stemmed from what seemed like a soft-centred batting line-up. A series of poor decisions from the batsmen led to a reasonably promising 106 for 3 turning into 126 all out in the second ODI, and a similar collapse in the third ODI saw Zimbabwe lose their last seven wickets for 19 runs.
Zimbabwe's batting leaders need to step up
Elton Chigumbura has played 202 ODIs, Hamilton Masakadza 168, Vusi Sibanda 127, Chamu Chibhabha 96, Sikandar Raza and Malcolm Waller 57 each. Throw in Sean Williams (96) and Craig Ervine (48), who missed a bulk of the series with injuries, and Zimbabwe have an experienced batting line-up. But through the ODI series, they failed to make use of that experience, and kept throwing their wickets away. Masakadza fell to a couple of soft dismissals, Sibanda and Raza played daft shots after putting on a promising partnership in the second ODI, and Chigumbura seemed to be batting at least one slot too low. For Zimbabwe to turn their ODI fortunes around, they will have to start by batting through 50 overs consistently, and that will need their best batsmen to re-learn the art of building innings.
Ntini has raw material to work with
It is not known how long Makhaya Ntini's stint as head coach will last, but he is likely to remain in charge of Zimbabwe's bowlers for a fairly long time. He has a decent group of fast bowlers to work with: Donald Tiripano and Neville Madziva showed promise in the T20I series, Tendai Chatara seems to be gradually returning to his pre-injury best, while Tinashe Panyangara should return in due course from his back injury. The spin group doesn't look bad either: Graeme Cremer is now a firmly established, international-class legspinner, Wellington Masakadza showed a lot of promise during the World T20, and Tendai Chisoro has shown his left-arm spin can hold up to the pressure of bowling with the new ball. Lots of promise, then, but Zimbabwe will need two or three of these names to go one step beyond promise and become fully-rounded operators at the top level. Can Ntini help them take that step?
India's fast-bowling depth
Jasprit Bumrah's stock delivery comes into the right-hander. But in Harare, he was able to straighten the ball too. His style of bowling - hitting the deck - minimises swing through the air, so being able to move it both ways off the pitch is an impressive development.
Barinder Sran's success in Harare was old-fashioned. He pitched the ball up and made it swing. A left-arm fast bowler almost always threatens the outside edge of a right-hander from over the wicket. Sran's inswinger added to that threat, although some of his wickets may have been the result of bowler-friendly conditions.
Dhawal Kulkarni had a fine IPL - 14 of his 18 wickets came in the Powerplay, and he reprised that threat in Zimbabwe. The wicket-to-wicket lines and back-of-a-length preference makes him hard to hit when there is help on offer.
All of that meant India's limited-overs captain MS Dhoni was quite happy. "We can proudly say we have 10-12 bowlers who can play for the country," he said.
Takeaways, with a pinch of salt
Nine Indians were introduced to international cricket on this tour. KL Rahul became the first of his countrymen to hit a century on ODI debut; he got to the milestone with a six over long-on. His free-flowing strokeplay bolstered his argument that he wasn't just a Test match specialist. But how much weight should be put on performances against a Zimbabwe side that kept self-destructing?
Ordinarily, an emerging player with 196 runs in three ODIs would think he has a strong chance to continue playing for his country. And Rahul has already been pushing Shikhar Dhawan hard in Test cricket, but has his work of chasing down tiny totals and playing with very little pressure exerted by the opposition good enough to put him into a full-strength Indian XI?
Faiz Fazal was handed an ODI debut at the age of 30 and he made a half-century to mark the occasion but it is difficult to see him getting further chances. Kedar Jadhav hit his maiden ODI hundred on the last Zimbabwe tour, had to wait for this one to resume his 50-over career and is still waiting to face his first ball in the format since July 2015.
India went to Zimbabwe looking, among other things, to find batsmen who could take charge in the slog overs. They lost one match - the first T20 - where the middle order needed to step up and returned home with Nos. 4 through 11 facing only one ball in the entire ODI series.