Zimbabwe Triangular Series 2010 May 26, 2010

Tri-series is a step in Zimbabwe's development

Liam Brickhill

After the carnival of the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean, a one-day tri-series in Zimbabwe may not seem like the sort of fare to whet the appetite, but India and Sri Lanka's trip to the Southern African nation is an important sounding board for all three teams.

The reasons for this are manifold. For a start, the 50-over World Cup is just over nine months away, and after India's lacklustre showing at the World Twenty20, the performance of their squad for this series - with a number of big names not making the trip - will be a test of India's bench strength and may also unearth the potential of some of the less experienced players. Should this squad perform beyond expectations, it may also be just the reality check needed to get India's heavyweights performing again.

Sri Lanka made it as far as the semi-finals of the World Twenty20, but that they got there at all was almost entirely due to Mahela Jayawardene's sparkling early-tournament form. But with Sri Lanka also resting a slew of their frontline players, they too have the opportunity to test the depth of their resources and allow a few youngsters the opportunity to gain international experience in what should be fairly easy conditions.

The fact that so many known international stars are not making the trip has irked more than a few people in the Zimbabwe set-up, but while there are worries about how much local attention tours by two second-string sides might draw, Zimbabwe must surely also be looking ahead to the World Cup and a couple of positive results in this series could only help their attempt at a cricketing renaissance. Zimbabwe also need all the exposure they can get, and with a paucity of international cricket on their calendar, this series may be their last chance to really test themselves ahead of the tournament in February next year.

But the issue of most immediate importance is Zimbabwe's first hosting of a series against major opposition since the last time Sri Lanka toured the country in November 2008. Since then, the only senior sides to visit have been Kenya, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, and although the Zimbabweans have travelled to South Africa and the West Indies - as well as the obligatory visits to Bangladesh and Kenya - and sent an invitational XI to play in the Deodhar Trophy in India in 2008-09, the successful hosting of two international sides will send an important message both about the state of cricket there, and more importantly about the state of the country.

In both areas, there has been little wholesale change, but positive steps are being made. Zimbabwe won the first Twenty20 and one-day game of their West Indies tour in March, and scored two notable victories against Pakistan and Australia in the warm-ups to the World Twenty20. Inbetween those successes, however, the team - and particularly the batsmen - have struggled.

Zimbabwe's early exit from the World Twenty20 came as a result of the frustrating, but far from unfamiliar, failure of the team's batsmen to apply themselves when even a modicum of pressure is placed upon them. The weakness is a mental one, as batsmen who have been repeatedly brutalised by being thrust onto the international stage before their time have had their confidence fractured, perhaps irredeemably so. The spectacular collapse has become a default setting, rather than an aberration. In this light, six games (at least) against weakened opposition on home soil will be an opportunity for the home side's batsmen to start pulling themselves out of the mire.

The last time Sri Lanka toured they came away with a 5-0 series whitewash, but were at least challenged in a few of the games, scraping home by five runs and two wickets respectively in the third and fourth games, while only a five-wicket haul by Muttiah Muralitharan saved them from defeat in the fifth. This time, the touring side will be missing Murali's guile, while Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara are also being rested.

The last Indian side to tour the country was an A side in 2007. That team included players such as Pankaj Singh, Pragyan Ojha and Rohit Sharma, and Zimbabwe also have experience of players such as Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin from their Deodhar adventure. The last full Indian side was in the country in 2005-06, and is unrecognisable from this touring squad.

It seems, then, that this tri-series may well be more competitive than many of Zimbabwe's recent international outings. Whether the home side plays to its potential, or implodes spectacularly, remains to be seen. Either way, the first major international tour to Zimbabwe in 18 months is a step in the right direction.

Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPN Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Prateek on May 28, 2010, 13:45 GMT

    guess what? our indian team bout to lose to Zimbabwe it's like a 2nd string indian cricketeres and they are close to losing against Zimbabwe that's shameful.thats are futuer I guess

  • Aditya on May 28, 2010, 10:28 GMT

    No cricket tour on the international circuit, featuring India, and Sri Lanka, is a second rung tour. I want India to win the series. The next generation will be on display. No doubt, all the players have represented the nations in the Under-19 World Cup. Chances are, the team which gels, as one, and better than the rest, will win the series.

  • Tharindu on May 28, 2010, 6:01 GMT

    Watch out for Ray Price. It'll be very difficult for score runs for him in these conditions. Also he'll be a wicket taking bowler. I remember that our team experienced that situation during the last Zimbabwe tour.

  • mukesh on May 28, 2010, 2:25 GMT

    first of all no Yuvi thats great for starters, he is totally out of form definetly needs some timeout of game. Bhajji though he is our best bowler in almost all series w.r.t economy rate his avg is dipping day in and day out. testing young indian batsmen in bouncy african conditions is good and would be a challenge to see. Indian bowlers and batsmen both made a mess in IPL(none except raina) were in form even with 2-3 mediocre bowlers available with hit me written all over there bowling. Reality check aside. team india 50 over ODI is way better then t20 team with each guy except yuvi and some out of form players aside doing more then decent job. lets hope some positives can be brought out of this series. esp against second string SLA and utseya/price spin attack. I am eager to watch Umesh yadav talll real pace bowler for ages should be good if he grabs his chances.

  • Madhu on May 27, 2010, 23:27 GMT

    I will say its purely the plan of BCCI and ICC to promote international cricket. Because, no much excitment will be with the cricketing fans even if their country plays with minnows like Zimbabwe. So its a good thing for whole indian cricket that everyone will look into this series atleast to see how these young Indian team will perform, even the senior players themselves. Yuvraj will be one of those for securing his test palce. Dhoni and co. will have more options. Sachin, Dravid, Zak, Bhajji, Viru will watch these kids playing in place of them eagerly. Either Uthappa or Pandey should be in place of Vijay. For the sakeof one knock in T20 that too in IPL, he has been given more chances. Uthappa changed the games for RCB. And also i like make an important point here, he is been part of Inaugural ICC T20 world cup. India won. He has made some unnoticed quick fire contibutions in that tournament. Which is require for this format. He missed other two and india suffered other two.

  • vishal on May 27, 2010, 22:35 GMT

    I'm thinking that if the Zimbabwean pitches are prepared according to their attack the only team that will struggle is India. I don't think one spinner will compare to 3 for SL or 4 for Zimbabwe

  • Gatta on May 27, 2010, 15:35 GMT

    This is a good opportunity for talented youngsters. India should win this series. I hope Virat and Rohit will do well and challenge Yuvraj for his place. They could also replace Sachin when he retires. Bhajji is not effective any more. Hope Amit/Pragyan will replace Bhajji. Vinay should play good and challenge the seniors. Karthik had lots of chances. Give a chance to Naman Ojha this time. Selectors should have included Uthappa and Irfan instead of Yusuf and Jadeja. Hope Viru will get back to the team soon.

  • cricket on May 27, 2010, 15:04 GMT

    I don't think that this tour will mean much for India as India will not be tested here. This tour will by no means reveal which of India's youth deserve playing on a grander stage. This has been the pattern by India of late. Cleverly schedule to play a weak team after an ICC event to minimize the damadge. You will see the same falied players like Yuvraj and Dhoni scoring tons of runs vs Zimbawe on dead pitches , and the poor fans will once again think that the chaps are back in form..that is only until the next major ICC event. Fans need to stop being fooled by this and start selecting batsman who can acutally score against good teams on big stages..and stop paying attentions to batsman's useless centuries against weak attacks on dead pitches...this is an absolute MUST if India want to be serious contenders for the WC...or are you just happy that your batsman have managed to accumulated the most number of centuries on dead tracks against weaker opponents for the most part?

  • Vikram on May 27, 2010, 13:43 GMT

    I think this young Indian side has a lot of potential in them and im hopeful of a good show from them..I'd ve liked S.Badrinath in this side because of ability to graft and rotate strike which is essential in this 50 over format wherein some time needs to be spent in the centre,, Kohli, Ashwin , raina and murali vijay are the ones to watch out for in this triseries.. we might see a lot of close matches as all three sides are relatively inexperienced..

  • Amahl on May 27, 2010, 13:36 GMT

    It will be a fascinating series to see how India's second XI can play without the unifying presence of their big names. It will also be intriguing to see how well Raina can marshal the troops and display skills for captaincy, which would be another handy addition to an already established portfolio of skills. Sri Lanka too have a lot to prove, the likes of Sangakkara, Jayawardene and Murali will not be around forever and we have seen little of their 'bench strength' so as to speak. Zimbabwe thus have a huge opportunity if they can put together the kind of performances that defeated both Australia and Pakistan in the World T20 warm ups. Hopefully Utseya's untimely departure from the captaincy post won't result in disarray in the Zimbabwean camp. Chigumbura will be vital as a batsman just as he has been as a captain whilst I would tip Ray Price as the bowler who needs to perform. What will be telling is whether Zimbabwe can even match up to mere 2nd XIs.

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