Kohli pleased with fringe players' performance
Job done for Virat Kohli. India were always likely to beat Zimbabwe, but any errors or slip-ups could have blotted the apprentice-captain's copybook. With India barely breaking a sweat while cruising to a 5-0 win, Kohli was particularly pleased with the way some untested and fringe players in his squad proved themselves.
"The guys who got a chance for the first time showed a lot of character, especially someone like Mohit Sharma and [Jaydev] Unadkat," Kohli said. "Ajinkya Rahane coming back into the team, scoring some runs. So it was pretty good to see all the guys performing and playing their roles. Amit Mishra sat out for two months on the road regularly and then came out with 18 wickets in this series, so there were a lot of great performances by individuals and some good team efforts as well."
Kohli also won four tosses out of five, but that only served to widen a gap that would probably not have been bridged even if India had had to bat first each morning. Zimbabwe's bad luck with the toss and their worse form with the bat meant that, apart from in the second match, India's batsmen were never really put under pressure in testing conditions. As Kohli explained, though, that wasn't really the point of this trip. India know what Suresh Raina, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma offer, but a seaming wicket and helpful conditions allowed a greenhorn set of bowlers to build up valuable confidence. At no point was there any chance that Kohli would have sent his batsmen in first.
"The thing is that we analysed and considered the fact that our bowling line-up is pretty new so we wanted to give them more confidence rather than the batting, because the batting has been doing well for about three months," Kohli said. "There's no point in going out there and trying to prove something to ourselves because all these individuals have performed at international level. It's about giving people the right kind of confidence in games, and the new-ball bowlers got a lot of confidence from bowling in the first innings and that was the plan. The batsmen have all scored runs in this series, so it was all about making sure the bowlers go back as more confident individuals."
Perhaps the only point one might call Kohli out on was his failure to give an opportunity to Parvez Rasool. The Kashmiri offspinning allrounder was the only member of the squad to have sat out the entire series when he could have been brought in as a like-for-like replacement for Ravindra Jadeja.
"It's very hard to leave someone like Jadeja out because he's the kind of bowler who can get you wickets at any point in time," Kohli said. "We didn't want to take any game lightly and I didn't want to change too much in the bowling department. Mishra has been sitting out for a while so we wanted to give him four or five games. Parvez is going to South Africa now for the India A tour and he's going to play a lot of games there and pick up more experience. He could have been given a chance but I just didn't want to take a chance with the bowling line-up, leaving someone like Jadeja out.
"I'm not really bothered about what's being said about people getting chances, because a lot of people who have played these five games have been sitting on the bench for two months or so. Parvez realises we had a set bowling combination and we didn't want to make any changes to that. It was unfortunate he didn't get a game, but it just didn't go according to our plans. Maybe in future when he plays more series he'll get a few games to test his skills out."
India took just about as much as they could out of this whistle-stop tour. Five wins, a truckload of runs and wickets and a good dose of confidence. They move on to far tougher assignments in the months to come, with some of the group heading to South Africa for an A tour before India - with MS Dhoni back at the helm - take on Australia in seven ODIs at home and then travel to South Africa. By then, Zimbabwe will be a distant memory but, perhaps, a happy one.
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town