'We might surprise them in one of the games' - Waller
Zimbabwe coach Andy Waller was cautiously optimistic about his team's chances in the five-match ODI series against India starting on Wednesday, which also marks his first international assignment as head coach. Waller took over from Steve Mangongo, who had held the position in a caretaker's role until the end of the home series against Bangladesh in May.
"All along we've prepared and hoped we might surprise them in one of the games," Waller said. "You've got to be realistic, but as long as we're competitive and do the best we can.
"Our guys are hugely excited about this. It's a great experience for them, and we've been preparing knowing that the best side in the world are coming. I think the guys are up for it. Hopefully all the hard work we've put in in the last nine weeks is going to pay off."
Waller also confirmed that veteran left-arm spinner Ray Price is part of the Zimbabwe squad. "Price is in the squad, I don't know why he wasn't named in the original list," said Waller after the team's nets session on Monday.
While Price has been included, it is highly likely that this series will be his last for Zimbabwe. The 37 year-old has played just one international this year, and with national contracts up for renewal soon, the departure of one of their most experienced players seems imminent.
Price's 140-game international career stretches all the way back to 1999. He appeared to have been lost to Zimbabwe when he took up a contract with Worcestershire following the clash between the board and players in 2004 but he decided to return to the fold in 2008 and since then has embodied the team's tenacious spirit. He has helped to instil some backbone to the bowling group during some difficult years and Zimbabwe probably owe him the chance to say goodbye.
A couple of India's senior players are absent from this trip, foremost among them their captain MS Dhoni, but Waller stressed the visitors' strength in depth and rejected any idea that Zimbabwe considered the squad a depleted one.
"I think they've just got so many players," he said. "With the new guys who've come in, I don't think there's a huge difference to be honest. We know that they're all very good cricketers, so we don't look at it like a weakened attack at all."
Waller has been working with a training squad for the last two months, having brought in Yorkshire fitness coach Tom Summers following the departure of long-time trainer Lorraine Chivandire. Waller has made fitness one of his top priorities and Zimbabwe's intensive training session, which stretched over several hours, was at odds with India's.
The visitors will still have been slightly jet-lagged, having arrived on Sunday night, and were tasked with nothing more than some light fielding and a relaxed football match during their afternoon session.
Apart from their training camp, Zimbabwe's preparations included a three-day game against Australia A this weekend that the visitors won by 80 runs. Zimbabwe's batsmen failed to complement the hard work of their bowlers, who had utilised the bowler-friendly Country Club pitch very well.
Waller suggested that the batsmen would have an easier time at the Harare Sports Club, where the first three ODIs will be played before moving to Bulawayo.
"We're not shaken at all," insisted Waller. "It was quite an interesting wicket [at Country Club], quite a difficult wicket. I think the guys are actually quite positive about it, because they were a damn good bowling side. And I think we know it's a lot harder batting on the wicket there than it will be at Sports Club. "
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town