A Zimbabwean team in transition landed in India three hours behind schedule, and without their baggage, leg-spinner Brian Murphy or captain Heath Streak. Though all of these eventually caught up (Streak after completing dental treatment in Harare), the chaotic start epitomised Zimbabwean cricket's most turbulent phase since they celebrated the granting of Test status in 1992. Against a political backdrop growing ever more volatile with the continuing occupation of white-owned farms, Zimbabwe's shattered economy held no promise for some of its underpaid cricketers. Two of their most valuable players, Murray Goodwin and Neil Johnson, had walked out after an encouraging tour of England, to seek more prosperous lives in Australia and South Africa respectively. Without them, Zimbabwe had lost two home Tests to New Zealand in September. Now on only their second Test tour of India, they confronted an ominous task in the difficult conditions of the subcontinent.
For the home side, the new management team of captain Sourav Ganguly and coach John Wright of New Zealand was on a mission. India had their own share of turbulence; during the tour, their board banned several players, including former captain Mohammad Azharuddin and all-rounder Ajay Jadeja, for their part in the match-fixing scandal. Meanwhile, master leg-spinner Anil Kumble was absent, handicapped by lingering shoulder pain. In March, India had lost a 13-year unbeaten record in home Test series, to South Africa; in October, they had reached two one-day finals, in Nairobi and Sharjah, only to be caught off-guard, first by New Zealand, then by Sri Lanka.
A tour by the depleted Zimbabweans looked like an opportunity to regain some self-belief, but the Indians had reason to be wary. The last time the two sides met, at Harare in 1998-99, they had committed hara-kiri chasing an achievable target of 235, and folded 62 runs short. A recharged India avenged that humiliation with victory at Delhi, which was to give them the Test series 1-0, and then took the one-day series 4-1. But the African boys looked resolute wherever they went on the 40-day tour, and earned their hosts' admiration for their fightback after following on at Nagpur. Though their blend of experience and youth failed to produce results, their determination no longer to be treated as the whipping boys of world cricket took another small but firm step forward.
Wicket-keeper/batsman Andy Flower emerged with great distinction. He stamped his class against spin bowling in particular, amassing 540 runs in the two Tests, where his lowest score was 55 and his highest 232 not out, and followed up with two fifties in the limited-overs games. Another former captain, Alistair Campbell, finally scored a maiden hundred in his 47th Test. In the one-day series, new guns Trevor Madondo and Mluleki Nkala oozed confidence. Disappointingly, 19-year-old pace bowler Travis Friend, who had troubled the Indians at Sharjah in October and was expected to provide much-needed new-ball support to Streak, missed the Tests through a nagging injury to his left ankle. Though he took the field in all but one of the five one-day matches, he was a shadow of his best.
For India, the stylish Rahul Dravid finished the Test series with an astounding average of 432.00 - one of three batsmen with a three-figure average, alongside Flower and Sachin Tendulkar. Javagal Srinath enjoyed a fine return to form, grabbing 12 wickets, twice as many as any other bowler, at 22.91 apiece. Two new boys, opener Shiv Sunder Das and off-spinner Sarandeep Singh, made their mark in the Tests, while India found a limited-overs match-winner in left-hander Hemang Badani. Ganguly consolidated his position as the leading one-day international run-scorer in the year 2000 by mustering 264 runs at 88.00 in four matches, taking his tally for the year to 1,579 runs. He missed the fifth and final match through a disciplinary ban.
Match reports for
Tour Match: Canterbury v Zimbabweans at Christchurch, Dec 19, 2000
Tour Match: Canterbury v Zimbabweans at Christchurch, Dec 21-23, 2000
Match reports for
National Cricket Academy XI v Zimbabweans at Indore, Nov 8-10, 2000
Indian Board President's XI v Zimbabweans at Faridabad, Nov 13-15, 2000