Zimbabwe 1 India 1

The Indians in Zimbabwe, 2001

Johm Ward

India arrived in Zimbabwe determined to win their first Test series outside Asia since they beat England in 1986. They had just overcome the might of Australia at home and, with a middle order comprising the record-breaking V. V. S. Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, captain Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, were confident they could avenge the embarrassment of the inaugural Test in Zimbabwe in 1992-93, when they had to fight to avoid following on, and their surprise defeat in the one-off Test of 1998-99. In the event, they not only failed to take the series - Zimbabwe fought back from one down to level it - but also unexpectedly lost the final of the ensuing one-day triangular tournament to West Indies, after cruising through the qualifiers. The bare results, however, hide the fact that India played much good cricket.

The batting, expected to be their strength, proved their weakest link; the Indian batsmen never fully adjusted to the Zimbabwean pitches' extra bounce, and their only international century came from Tendulkar in the one-day tournament. Laxman, full of splendid strokes, was perhaps too aggressive for his own good in foreign conditions, while Ganguly had a dismal time with the bat for most of the tour. Dravid provided the backbone, and it was his second-innings dismissal that proved to be the turning-point of the Harare Test. But India's most impressive batsman of the Tests was the determined Shiv Sunder Das, whom some Indian critics began to rate as their best opener since Sunil Gavaskar, a television commentator on this tour. Das scored 239 runs at 79.66 and was named Man of the Series - though he was not retained for the triangular tournament.

The bowlers did a good job, but Australia's destroyer, off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, could not dominate on Zimbabwean soil as in India. The local batsmen had clearly done their homework on how to play him. More interesting was the progress made by the quickish left-armer, Ashish Nehra, who had played one previous Test. His accuracy and movement, especially when the ball swung early on the winter mornings, forced his opponents to play him with great respect and prompted the Indians to keep him on, contrary to original plans, after the Tests. He had good seam support, and the only time the Indian attack was mastered was in the one-day final. The tourists' fielding was a revelation, and a credit to their new coach, John Wright. Ground fielding and close catching alike were the best seen from India since the early 1970s, with Laxman, Dravid and Das in particular taking numerous brilliant close catches.

Zimbabwe did well to level the series after letting themselves down badly on the first day in Bulawayo. As usual, the batting owed much to the Flower brothers in the middle order, while captain Heath Streak was again the bulwark of the bowling. He had a hostile new opening partner in Brighton Watambwa, and it was a remarkable effort to force a home victory in Harare after Watambwa had been injured on the first morning. Crowds for the Tests were much larger than usual, owing to the new policy of bussing in schoolchildren from the development areas in the townships. On most days more than 1,000 were present, which greatly added to the atmosphere. If there was one jarring note, it was the pathetic over-rate by both teams: play ran between 25 and 50 minutes late every day, highlighting the failure of the ICC to tackle this problem effectively.

Match reports for

Sri Lanka A v Indians at Colombo (NCC), Jul 18, 2001
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2nd Match: India v New Zealand at Colombo (RPS), Jul 20, 2001
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3rd Match: Sri Lanka v India at Colombo (RPS), Jul 22, 2001
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5th Match: India v New Zealand at Colombo (RPS), Jul 26, 2001
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6th Match: Sri Lanka v India at Colombo (RPS), Jul 28, 2001
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8th Match: Sri Lanka v India at Colombo (SSC), Aug 1, 2001
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9th Match: India v New Zealand at Colombo (SSC), Aug 2, 2001
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Final: Sri Lanka v India at Colombo (RPS), Aug 5, 2001
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Sri Lanka Board XI v Indians at Colombo (PSS), Aug 8-10, 2001
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1st Test: Sri Lanka v India at Galle, Aug 14-17, 2001
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2nd Test: Sri Lanka v India at Kandy, Aug 22-25, 2001
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3rd Test: Sri Lanka v India at Colombo (SSC), Aug 29-Sep 2, 2001
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Match reports for

Zimbabwe A v Indians at Mutare, May 28-30, 2001
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CFX Academy v Indians at Harare, Jun 2-4, 2001
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1st Test: Zimbabwe v India at Bulawayo, Jun 7-10, 2001
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2nd Test: Zimbabwe v India at Harare, Jun 15-18, 2001
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Zimbabwe A v Indians at Harare, Jun 22, 2001
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2nd Match: Zimbabwe v India at Harare, Jun 24, 2001
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3rd Match: Zimbabwe v India at Bulawayo, Jun 27, 2001
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4th Match: India v West Indies at Bulawayo, Jun 30, 2001
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6th Match: India v West Indies at Harare, Jul 4, 2001
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Final: India v West Indies at Harare, Jul 7, 2001
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