After some entertaining brand of cricket in the recently concluded IPL 2016, and prior to that the World T20, India cricket fans are all set to be entertained by the Indian players in Zimbabwe. The Men in Blue take on Zimbabwe in a three-match ODI series, starting with the first one at Harare Sports Club on Saturday.
India have provided rest to most of their senior players, who have been playing continuously for the national side. Hence, this tour of Zimbabwe will be without senior stars of the India team, which means Dhoni will lead a team filled with youngsters, including some uncapped players as well. The BCCI selectors awarded consistent IPL and domestic performers a place in the national team.
Though India might have come into this series without their top players, they will start as favourites. But interim coach for the Zimbabwe series, Sanjay Bangar, and captain Dhoni will have to sit down and try to find the best eleven, which is not going to be easy.
As far as opening the batting is concerned, Faiz Fazal and KL Rahul are favourites, and Manish Pandey, with his experience, will play an important role in the top order. Depending upon the start provided by the top three, India can have a flexible middle order comprising Dhoni, Ambati Rayudu and Karun Nair.
The all-rounder's role will be played by Axar Patel, who needs to contribute with both the bat and ball.
Picking the bowlers for the first ODI may be tricky, though Jasprit Bumrah will lead the attack in Zimbabwe. Dhawal Kulkarni, who played an important role for Gujarat Lions in IPL 2016, could partner Bumrah with the new ball, which leaves space for two bowlers. Barinder Sran could be the third seamer in the team. Leggie Yuzvendra Chahal could make his India debut.
With such set of players, India look a strong unit, and Zimbabwe need to get their selection right ahead of their big game. Their key batsmen -- Chamu Chibhabha, Vusi Sibanda, Hamilton Masakadza, Sean Williams, Elton Chigumbura – will be first names in the playing list.
These players have decent experience, and will play integral part in the ODI series. Chigumbura, who will bat in the middle order, is set to feature in the 200th international game of his career. Craig Ervine will be another player, who can bowl as well, to watch for Zimbabwe.
Richmond Mutumbani will play as the wicket-keeper. Taurai Muzarabani, Donald Tiripano, Tendai Chatara will have to find ways to stop the India batsmen from scoring big runs. Skipper Graeme Cramer will expect his players to fire against India, and help them stun Dhoni and his men.
Likely playing XI: India: KL Rahul, Faiz Fazal, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair, MS Dhoni (c, wk), Ambati Rayudu, Axar Patel, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jasprit Bumrah, Barinder Sran, Yuzvendra Chahal
Zimbabwe: Chamu Chibhabha, Vusi Sibanda, Hamilton Masakadza, Elton Chigumbura, Sean Williams, Craig Ervine, Richmond Mutumbani (w),Graeme Cremer (c), Taurai Muzarabani, Donald Tiripano, Tendai Chatara