India completed a series whitewash in the ODI matches against Zimbabwe, and now it is onto the T20 stretch, with the first of those taking place at the Harare Sports Club on Saturday. Despite having a 16-man squad, MS Dhoni only used 12 players in the three matches, with several of the batsmen among that 12, not even getting an opportunity with the willow.
As important as winning a series or completing a whitewash is, there was a bigger scope for Dhoni to use some of the other players in the squad, particularly the bowlers. Mandeep Singh, Rishi Dhawan, Jaydev Unadkat and Jayant Yadav have not featured in the Zimbabwe tour so far, with Dhoni making just one change to the India team across the three ODIs, when Faiz Fazal came in for Karun Nair in the final match, with the series already sealed.
That third ODI would have been the perfect opportunity to give the untried players a go, but now, with the game on Saturday being the first of the series, it remains to be seen if Dhoni will make any big changes to his playing XI.
Nair will hope to come back into the team, despite Fazal's impressive debut, when he made an unbeaten 55, while Mandeep, Rishi Dhawan, Unadkat and Yadav will also hope for a callup. Fazal did not feature in the IPL 2016 season, but he showed some definite class during his outing on debut, even if it against the Zimbabwe bowlers defending a hopeless total of 123.
Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav should keep their place in the team, considering they have faced a combined total of one ball so far on the tour. Dhoni, himself, has not got a bat out in the middle, but with Ambati Rayudu getting enough time and Rahul more than making a case for inclusion in future, full-strength ODI squads, it might not be such a bad idea to bring Karun Nair back and give Mandeep Singh a go. The latter, particularly, has that big-hitting ability, which could prove to be useful in the T20 format.
With Jasprit Bumrah growing from strength to strength it might be time to start thinking about what he can do in future matches, and, as a result, a rest might be in order, with Unadkat or Dhawan probably coming in. if Jayant Yadav is to feature, then Axar Patel or Yuzvendra Chahal, so impressive in his first ever international series, will have to make way.
Zimbabwe have made quite a few changes to their T20I squad, with Sean Williams and Craig Irvine missing out through injuries, while a back problem has kept out Tinashe Panyangara. The interesting picks for the T20 matches are Brian Chari, the opener, and Tapiwa Mufudza, the uncapped offspinner.
With so many changes to the squad, it is difficult to gauge what the playing XI will be, with captain Graeme Cremer and coach Makhaya Ntini hoping whichever team is picked, the batting performance ends up being a lot better.
Expected starting XI: India: Karun Nair, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Mandeep Singh, MS Dhoni (C), Axar Patel, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jasprit Bumrah, Barinder Sran, Yuzvendra Chahal.
Zimbabwe squad: Graeme Cremer (C), Brian Chari, Tendai Chatara, Chamu Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura, Neville Madziva, Timycen Maruma, Hamilton Masakadza, Wellington Masakadza, Peter Moor, Tapiwa Mufudza, Tinotenda Mutombodzi, Richmond Mutumbami (wk), Taurai Muzarabani, Sikandar Raza, Vusi Sibanda, Donald Tiripano, Malcolm Waller.