One-day internationals (3): Zimbabwe 0, India 3 Twenty20 internationals (2): Zimbabwe 1, India 1
Zimbabwe had grown accustomed to receiving watered-down Indian teams. So there was no great surprise when India rested six senior players, left two others at home for an A-team series against Australia, and allowed team director Ravi Shastri to take an Ashes punditry job with Sky Sports. Zimbabwe were simply relieved that the tour went ahead at all: the BCCI's concern over player burnout, and distaste for the series broadcaster, Ten Sports - whose parent company, the Essel Group, had been in talks about a rebel Twenty20 league - had delayed its confirmation until the eleventh hour.
So low-key was the contest that the African satellite channel SuperSport, which for years had screened all Zimbabwe's home matches, showed the World Twenty20 qualifying tournament, featuring Kenya and Namibia, instead. This at least meant live cricket returned to Zimbabwean free-to-air television for the first time in more than a decade, on the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation - although the excitement was tempered by the C-rate production and regular musical interludes.
Still, viewers of the first one-day international received good value when Elton Chigumbura's hundred ensured a thrilling finish. Thereafter the tour reverted largely to type, as India comfortably swept the ODI series and won the first Twenty20. It required a chivvying display in the field from Sikandar Raza - standing in as captain for the injured Chigumbura - to rouse Zimbabwe to a series-levelling win in the second.
The ODIs saw the introduction of the ICC's latest playing conditions, which attempted to make life a fraction easier for the bowlers by relaxing the fielding restrictions. But the more interesting development was an experiment with Dukes balls for the first time in Zimbabwean cricket. Whereas the white Kookaburra had usually given the side bowling first a huge advantage in games starting at 9am, the Dukes was liable to swing even in the afternoon, lessening Chigumbura's success at the toss in all three matches.
With Ravi Jadeja dropped altogether, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Stuart Binny and Manish Pandey all made a case for inclusion in India squads, while Ajinkya Rahane, deputising as captain for M. S. Dhoni, led astutely despite the tour being overshadowed by events back home. During the third ODI the verdict of the Justice Lodha Committee, assigned to investigate corruption in the IPL, filtered through, leaving five of the squad, including Rahane, to worry about their futures with Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings, the two suspended franchises.
There were off-field distractions for Zimbabwe, too: a letter sent by Prosper Utseya to the board, in which he alleged racism by their managing director, Alistair Campbell was leaked. It had been written before the tour of Pakistan in May, so it was not news to everyone; in any case, locals were used to such political controversies. Utseya played the day after the letter was made public - and Zimbabwe recorded a notable victory, briefly reviving memories of their late-1990s heyday.
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