I'm happy with my game - Chibhabha
It's easy to forget that Chamu Chibhabha has been an international cricketer for a decade. An unassuming, almost shy presence, he's not the sort to impose himself upon a post-match press conference. But his batting is becoming increasingly forthright and expressive, and he's come a long way from the nervous 18-year-old who stumbled to a three-ball duck on debut against New Zealand in 2005.
Consistency - both in selection and performance - has held Chibhabha back, but 2015 has been a fruitful year for him and he may finally have done enough to ensure that he plays a part in Zimbabwe's busy upcoming schedule. He bolted into Zimbabwe's World Cup squad with an assertive 155 against Canada just before the tournament, and started well with a boundary-laden 64 against South Africa, getting the better of both Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel in their opening spells.
It marked the start of a good year, during which he's averaged 44.42. But in typically modest fashion, he admits that he's not keeping an eye on his numbers. "I had no idea I'm averaging almost 45, but it's always nice to score runs and contribute with the bat. I'm also putting in a couple of overs, and that brings balance to the team so I'm happy with my game at the moment."
That average, which is almost double that of his career average, might have been even higher were it not for a mix-up with Sikandar Raza that resulted in his exit for 72 in the 32nd over. "I was a bit frustrated, since I'd got myself in and it was important for me to bat through and give the team a better chance to win the game. But at the end of the day, there are just some things you can't control."
Chibhabha had done much of the hard work before his dismissal, starting well with three fours in a row off Dhawal Kulkarni and seeing off a potentially threatening new-ball spell from Bhuvneshwar Kumar with wickets falling around him. "I wasn't really comfortable facing [Kumar] to start, and then I started moving my feet and coming down the wicket to put him off. It worked today. But to be honest with the ball we're using at the moment, the Dukes, it does a bit early on so it's always tough. You have to work a lot harder to get a start, and then it gets easier and easier. Today just wasn't the day for our top order. We struggled in the first ten overs."
Chibhabha also overcame his perceived weakness against spin, playing Harbhajan Singh with caution but plundering four fours off Axar Patel's left-arm spin. "Actually when the spinners came on I was a bit worried, but I had a plan and it came off today," he said. "A lot of the success I've had lately, it's more of my attitude and mental approach to the game. Not to worry about technique or anything, just backing myself to execute.
"To the left armer I was just staying leg side of the ball, and just hitting down the ground. Harbhajan was bowling a bit slower, back of a length, so I'd just stay back and punch it down the ground."
Chibhabha has also found some success with his bustling medium pace in this series, taking two cheap wickets in the first match and getting a much-needed breakthrough today with the wicket of Ajinkya Rahane. "I'd like to hope [my bowling is coming along nicely]. It always brings an option of bringing in an extra batter, because I'll also put in a couple of overs. It helps the team in a way, so it's important that I work on it."
Chibhabha felt that Zimbabwe should have been able to chase down India's total in benign batting conditions, were it not for the steady fall of wickets. "Chasing 270 at Sports Club in the afternoon, you've got a chance of winning the game. It's a par score at Sports Club. But losing wickets early on is not going to do us any good, because you can catch up on runs but you can't catch up on wickets. If you lose wickets then you're always going to struggle."
With the series now gone, Zimbabwe will have to motivate themselves to give context to the final match. For Chibhabha, pride and gratitude to the supporters, who turned out in near capacity today, should be sufficient. "Every game we always give 100%, and it's no different with the last ODI. We're just going to go out there and play for pride, and for our supporters as well. It's important."
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town