'Not taking Zimbabwe lightly' - Rahane
Bangladesh's epochal series victory over India is just a few weeks old but Ajinkya Rahane, India's stand-in captain for their trip to Zimbabwe, insisted that his team has already moved on. Given the sting that another series defeat would inflict, India won't be taking the hosts lightly and Rahane said that they are here "to win games".
"Bangladesh is in the past now for us," Rahane said. "We're thinking about the present series and our plan will be to back our strengths and back our games, rather than looking at Zimbabwe's strengths. Give our best and play to our potential. We're here to win games."
India cruised past Zimbabwe in all of their matches on their last visit in 2013, but there is a completely different complexion to their current squad and despite limited success, Zimbabwe played positively in Pakistan in May and shouldn't be push-overs.
"We all know that Zimbabwe is a good side," Rahane said. "They've been playing pretty well recently and we're expecting a good series here. The boys are looking forward to the series and we're not taking Zimbabwe lightly. We're respecting them, and respecting their cricket. We've got to play good cricket.
"Zimbabwe have got a pretty balanced side. They played pretty well in Pakistan, and they've good, experienced batsmen these days. Good allrounders and bowlers. And they're getting better day by day. So we respect them, but at the same time we'll play our own cricket."
With new playing conditions coming into effect, particularly with regard to field restrictions, this series will also give India a chance to field-test potential changes to their gameplan in the relatively safe environment of a low-key series. Rahane suggested that they would take a wait-and-see approach to any changes.
"We have to wait and watch here, because it's the first game [with the new playing conditions]. After the first game we'll develop an idea about what sorts of strategies we need to use for the new rules. But it's quite exciting, with new fielding restrictions and free hits off all no-balls. It is very exciting, but we have to wait and watch how these new rules will go forward."
Having been dropped from the playing XI against Bangladesh, Rahane is one of the seven batsmen in the squad who will be hoping to showcase his talent and lock down a position in the middle order. He's also got the added responsibility of captaining the side. Although he has only led twice at senior level, he said he was looking forward to the challenge.
"It's a new challenge for me in my career. I'm looking forward to it. I normally visualise the situation when I play the game, whenever I get the opportunity to play. So I've brought a few ideas with me, and I've got my own style of captaincy, but I've learned a lot from Dhoni bhai under his captaincy. So I'm looking forward to bringing this talented bunch of guys here and doing well as a captain.
"In a positive way, it's a good opportunity for all of us to express ourselves. We're taking Zimbabwe very seriously. This is a good platform to showcase our talent here, do well at the international level. Everywhere we go, we take every opponent very seriously. We want to play our game and back our strengths."
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town