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The national team returned home on 22 March after a month-long tour of India where they played two Tests and three one-dayers. Captain Stuart Carlisle reviews the tour.
In the First Test we were in good positions in the first innings but we lost far too many wickets in the middle. I thought we bowled relatively tightly, especially in the second innings, but at the end of the day in the First Test they basically outplayed us and deserved to win that match.
The Second Test: I feel that we were very unfortunate, very unlucky. I think it could have certainly gone our way but it didn't. The great thing about the Second Test is that we put up a very good fight, especially in the second innings. We had them at 116 for six, where they needed six more runs and we could have had them 116 for seven. One of their batsmen couldn't bat as well so they could have been eight down and we could have snatched a victory.
Our batting in the second innings was a bit disappointing. We should have got, I think, another 40 runs and we should certainly have won that Test but the reason was that the pitch had broken very badly and it was turning a lot and bouncing. They had two world-class spinners so it was very difficult to bat in the fifth day and hard to face both Harbhajan and Kumble.
With at least 40 more runs I guarantee we could have won. We knew that even with 120 runs we had a chance of winning.
There were some positive individual performances. Dion Ebrahim batted really well and he got a good 90. Andy Flower - it's good to have him back to form, and he had 90 as well, and of course Raymond Price. We had asked for him to come to Sri Lanka but he was unable to do that, so I am really glad that he really showed a lot of promise as a genuine spinner. He took five or six wickets and played very well. He had world-class batsmen like Sachin Tendulkar in a bit of trouble, showing great promise for us.
We had just one spinner, Price, who took ten of the 20 Indian wickets to fall in the two matches, while India had two spinners, Harbhajan and Kumble, who took 28 of the 37 Zimbabwean wickets and I have absolutely no doubt that if we had two spinners we would have done better. But it's not our fault or the selectors' fault at all because the other spinners we have were all injured, like Brian Murphy. Paul Strang had just resigned for his own reasons, so we only had part-time spinners. That's why it's important that we start looking for some really good spinners to back up Raymond Price because whenever we go to the subcontinent there is always a lot of turn.
In future if we get another spinner to go on those tours it will definitely make a great difference to our performance. What was also pleasing from the Test series was that our fielding improved tremendously.
The one-day series:
The first match: of course, who can forget the incredible innings of Douglas Marillier? That was a very innovative innings and I think we were in a very good position early on in that match. We were 185 for three with good innings from Andy Flower and Alistair Campbell who had a good partnership. I got into a 50-run partnership as well and then we suddenly lost about five wickets from 190 to 220. Dougie pulled us out with a tremendous innings and that was really important as we went one-nil up.
The second match: Geoff Marsh and I told the guys that it was good to be confident but not to be over-confident or complacent. But I don't know whether it was nerves from the bowlers, but they bowled 35 extras and that was inexcusable. That made a difference between us chasing between 290 and 320.
Once again our batters came out. Travis Friend did really well, Alistair had really good knocks in the first three matches and was consistent. We were on track but, once again, chasing seven or eight, or even nine to ten an over from as early as the 40th over is always going to be quite a hard task for the batters.
The third game: Douggie Hondo had a fantastic game. It's good to have him in the team. He just kept things very simple and the wickets came to him. And then that good batting partnership between Grant Flower and Alistair as well to make sure that we got close to that 190 and winning by six wickets. Being two-one up in the series was really good.
Andy Flower was injured and, although young Charles Coventry would have been the natural replacement, we instead settled for Douggie Hondo because in the previous game we had conceded 35 extras. As captain I wanted an extra bowler and so we pushed for Douggie to play. Also we thought that the players up front like Alistair, Grant and myself were good enough players to take the pressure to bat and get runs, and we settled for an extra bowler as opposed to an extra batsman.
The second thing about Charles was that we already have a young side as it is. There are a lot of youngsters coming through and the selectors had decided to send another youngster. I told him during the tour, "You are welcome to the side. It's good to have you. I hope you learn a lot because that's the primary objective. You learn just as much off the field as on the field when you are on tour as a young guy. If you get a game that will be fantastic, but if you don't, don't worry about it.' He is only 18.
Unfortunately in Zimbabwe young players sometimes they bypass the first-class structure and some guys don't actually play in the leagues but are just put in the national team, which I don't think is the right thing for a young person. I think it can actually damage a young person's career if he is pushed too fast.
Then the fourth game. Again it was a pretty good game for both sides and it was very close for both teams. Some said maybe we should have had 15 or 20 more runs but I still think that 240 was a competitive score. Yuvraj Singh has been in tremendous form on the domestic scene and that's why he came back to the Indian side. He batted really well and stole the game from us, otherwise we could have had won the series three-one.
And the fifth game. Again our bowlers just completely lost it and I don't know whether it was pressure or inexperience. It was sad but the good thing is that the guys showed a lot of fighting spirit and our batting was always consistent throughout the series.
Before this series, like in Sri Lanka, we had been managing 190, 200, 210, but now we are getting 240, 260, 270, so the batting is getting better and better with time. The fielding has been excellent and the bowling has been really good in spells but just inconsistent.
So overall I think in the one-dayers we are still struggling with the opening position with Alistair and we have to work on that. Alistair had three good knocks but he needs to get bigger scores. He needs to start getting hundreds now because I think he is now maturing as a player and he is experienced enough to start doing it.
Andy Flower of course has been really innovative. He can win matches from any position. I think Grant Flower batted really well in the middle order. Tatenda Taibu I thought he kept very well. He's got good energy. I know he had one or two mistakes but then it is very difficult to keep in India. I think he had some great catches and that one great stumping.
Travis Friend surprisingly did better with the bat and struggled a bit with his bowling but he is also young and coming up. After the tour I think we are basically heading forward in the right direction.