Stats - Taibu's troops are no pushover
India are playing a Test series in Zimbabwe after a gap of four years. And a lot has come to pass during this time. India have scaled never-climbed-before heights during the Ganguly-Wright era and are looking to purge memories of a forgettable season so far in 2005 as they are set to play their first Test series with Greg Chappell as coach.
Zimbabwe have plumbed abysmal fantastic depths with controversies of all kinds plaguing their cricket and depriving them of some of their star players. Andy Flower, who averages 94.83 against India, and Henry Olonga were banned after they protested against the Mugabe government. Grant Flower, Guy Whittal, Ray Price and Sean Ervine, among others, fell out with the Zimbabwe cricket board after a dispute over the selection process. Murray Goodwin and Neil Johnson have sought their future in Australia and South Africa respectively.
You would normally expect India to romp home against Zimbabwe no matter where the match was being played but history would prove you wrong. India have not won a Test series in Zimbabwe, having drawn the 2001 series at one a piece. Zimbabwe have the better record against India at home, having won two of the four Tests that have been played. India have won just one Test and drew another after conceding a 149-run first innings lead.
|1998||Zimbabwe won by 61 runs||Harare|
|2001||India won by 8 wickets||Bulawayo|
|2001||Zimbabwe won by 4 wickets||Harare|
Of the Indian batsmen on this tour, only Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman have played a Test in Zimbabwe before. Dravid, true to his consistent performances in all countries, has an impressive record whereas Ganguly and Laxman will be hoping to improve on their poor performances in Zimbabwe.
Apart from Ajit Agarkar, who keeps making brief returns to the team, the other Indian bowlers have fared pretty well in the few matches that they have played in Zimbabwe. Ashish Nehra, India's best bowler on the 2001 tour with 11 wickets at 19.72 a piece in two Tests, had to be sent home after the Videocon Cup because of a back injury.
Most of the Zimbabwean players will be playing a Test series against India for the first time. Heath Streak, Zimbabwe's workhorse-like spearhead, has an impressive record at home against India with 15 wickets in three Tests at an average of 19.26. India will look to win the series comprehensively but will do well not to take their opponents lightly. Zimbabwe have a lot to prove and a win against India will help silence the growing voices that are calling for their suspension from Test cricket.
George Binoy is editorial assistant of Cricinfo