A forgotten rain rule, an unforgettable spat
India's visits to the beautiful tree-lined grounds of Zimbabwe haven't left a bag of nostalgia to savour just before the start of a new series, but here are a few memorable games from down the years.
Only Test, Harare, 1992-93
There was once a time when India had time for smaller teams. Three Test teams have made a debut against India, and Zimbabwe were the second one. Kevin Arnott faced the first ball from Kapil Dev, and on a slow lifeless pitch in hot conditions, Zimbabwe ground India into dust. India had to fight hard to avoid the follow-on, but they still conceded the first-innings lead. However, so cautious was the approach of the teams and so innocuous the conditions, even a follow-on would have failed to produce a result.
However, for statisticians and lovers of trivia, this match was a pot of gold. Dave Houghton emulated Charles Bannerman to score a century in his country's first match. That century helped thrash the record for the highest score by a team on Test debut, 245. John Traicos, the only Zimbabwean not debuting in this match, broke the record for the biggest gap between two international appearances, and bowled 50 overs for 86 runs and five wickets. Sanjay Manjrekar scored 104 in 529 minutes and 422 balls, then the fourth-slowest century of all time and the slowest by an Indian. This was also to prove to be Manjrekar's last Test ton.
The most interesting trivia, though, belongs to the umpires. A sponsorship from National Grid got Dickie Bird an air ticket to Harare, taking Bird level with Frank Chester's record of having stood in 48 Tests. Bird's appearance raised a bigger question, though: which of the local umpires, Ian Robinson and Kantilal Kanjee, to disappoint? They disappointed neither, letting the Zimbabweans alternate as Bird stood through the match.
1st ODI, Bulawayo, 1996-97
Another match known more for the trivia. We might be dismayed by different DRS playing conditions in different countries today, but back then, every country had its own rain rule. England and South Africa, which meant Zimbabwe by extension, employed two of the most sophisticated rules. England's Duckworth-Lewis went on to become the universal system, but Clark-Samson, used to adjust the target in this game, wasn't far behind at that time.
Zimbabwe were close to the best they had ever been. Soon after playing memorably close games against India in the tri-series in South Africa, they thrashed the visitors here. The game began as 44 overs a side, and the burly duo of Heath Streak and Eddo Brandes bowled India out for 168. Further rain reduced Zimbabwe's target to 138 in 38 overs; they got home with more than 12 overs to spare.
World Cup, Harare, 2003
Wisden calls this a match India had dared not lose. India had had a disastrous tour to New Zealand in the lead-up, and lost to Australia heavily in the World Cup. Effigies had been burnt, players' houses had been attacked, and worse was expected if India lost and hurt their chances of progressing further in the World Cup. India's response wasn't the most emphatic, but they did the job: Sachin Tendulkar's 81 took India to 255, and the bowlers all contributed to limit Zimbabwe to 172. It was the start of India's eight-match winning streak, which ended in the final. No effigies were burnt after this defeat to Australia.
Both Tests, Harare, 2005-06
India's only Test series win in Zimbabwe. However, the most memorable match an Indian has played in Zimbabwe was the game of pool between the captain Sourav Ganguly and the coach Greg Chappell, who were making up after the captain had revealed to the world that the coach had suggested he give up his captaincy. Ever since that press conference, the actual cricket took the back seat as emotions took over to kick-start some of the most fractious years in Indian cricket.
1st match of the tri-series, Bulawayo, 2010
International cricket was coming back to the troubled Zimbabwe, the team had won only one of its last 11 ODIs, and had given away 285 to a young Indian side. What followed had no air of an upset. Smoothly, as if they had been successfully chasing totals of 280-plus regularly, Brendan Taylor, Craig Ervine and Hamilton Masakadza punished India's bowling and won with 10 balls to spare. Zimbabwe went on to make the final of the tri-series.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo