Avoiding 0-5 will be achievement for Zimbabwe
Match factsSaturday, August 3, 2013
Start time 0900 (0700 GMT)
Big PictureZimbabwe played all of three ODIs in 2012. Three. Afghanistan played five, Ireland four. Zimbabwe's opponents in the ongoing series, India, played 17. No wonder Zimbabwe turned up cold against West Indies in February this year, more than 12 months after they had played their previous one-dayer, and were hammered by 156 runs. Understandably, there was sympathy for the visitors' plight in the Caribbean, the extreme lopsidedness of the FTP taking most of the blame for their inadequacies.
This year, there is not much blame the FTP can take. Zimbabwe have played the same number of Tests as India have - four. And while they have been involved in just under half the number of ODIs India have played, ten one-dayers is still a reasonable figure. However, they were as inadequate in the fourth match against India as they were when they arrived in the West Indies, short on match practice. Clearly, lack of opportunities to test themselves cannot be the biggest reason, at least not this time. Preparation, as Zimbabwe themselves have admitted, is not either. They know it has something to do with mental strength and lack of application but just can't seem to do anything to rectify it.
Meanwhile, the margins of defeat have got bigger and bigger. Six wickets, seven wickets, nine wickets. The one time they bowled first, they let India surge to 294. They wanted the opportunity to play a big team; they got five games against the world champions. While avoiding a 0-5 whitewash will be some achievement now, one can only hope Zimbabwe have actually learned something from this experience. For two more difficult opponents, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, are expected to come visiting later this year, and Zimbabwe would dearly want to avoid similar results against them.
Most of the India squad could already be looking forward to what will be a much tougher tour of South Africa with the A team. The trip includes a triangular one-day series also involving Australia A, who beat a near full-strength Zimbabwe side by 80 runs recently in a three-day game in Harare. Ten members of this India side will travel to South Africa, and if nothing, this series has been a fine workout for them, much better than for the other six players of the A squad who have had to make do with an extremely short "camp" at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. It should not have come down to seeing an ODI series as workout for an A tour, but that is how much of a no-contest this one has been.
Form guide(most recent first, last five completed games)
In the spotlightBrendan Taylor averages 8.75 with the bat this series. He's got a rough lbw decision, had an early nervous run-out but has also given away two starts to deliveries that didn't exactly deserve a wicket. He needs to salvage a decent score from this series as a batsman, if not a consolation win as captain.
Cheteshwar Pujara will be leading India A in South Africa. He couldn't do much on his ODI debut, and will want to spend some productive time at the top of the order before heading over to Zimbabwe's neighbouring country.
Team newsOut of a possible five debutants, India have given chances to four this series. The fifth debut, if it happens, will be historic, making Parvez Rasool the first cricketer from the politically troubled state of Jammu & Kashmir to play for India. With Rohit Sharma finally getting some runs in the series, it won't be a bad idea to give Ajinkya Rahane - who will also be travelling to South Africa - a go as well.
India (probable): 1 Cheteshwar Pujara, 2 Rohit Sharma/Ajinkya Rahane, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja/Parvez Rasool, 8 Amit Mishra, 9 Mohit Sharma, 10 Jaydev Unadkat, 11 Mohammed Shami
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Vusi Sibanda, 2 Sikandar Raza, 3 Hamilton Masakadza, 4 Brendan Taylor (capt & wk), 5 Sean Williams, 6 Malcolm Waller, 7 Elton Chigumbura, 8 Prosper Utseya, 9 Brian Vitori, 10 Tendai Chatara, 11 Michael Chinouya
Stats and trivia
- Three of the top five run-getters this series are from Zimbabwe, but the top two are Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan
- If India win the final game, it will be their first 5-0 series win outside India. They have blanked England twice at home, in 2008 and 2011, and New Zealand once, in 2010
- This is Brendan Taylor's second-worst ODI series in terms of batting average
Quotes"The guys are working hard, but I think it's just a matter of being smart when we start our innings, especially our first ten overs when we're losing two to three early wickets. I think the guys just need to maybe take a little bit of time at the wicket."
Elton Chigumbura, Zimbabwe's leading run-scorer this series
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo