India will be taking on Zimbabwe in the first ODI of the three-match series at the Harare Sports Club on Friday. Post this series, they will also play two Twenty20 (T20) matches.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) selectors had decided to send a second-string side for this tour. The Men in blue will also have a new skipper in the form of Ajinkya Rahane. MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin and Umesh Yadav have all been rested for this tour citing fatigue as the reason.
This also means that a bunch of young Indian players will get the opportunity to showcase their talent during this tour. Robin Uthappa and Harbhajan Singh made their way back into the squad and Manoj Tiwary also made a comeback after long. Manish Pandey might also finally feature in the playing XI, after he missed his chance last year against West Indies as the visitors pulled out of the tour midway.
The bowling attack looks relatively young and is likely to be lead by Bhuvneshwar Kumar who is the most experienced bowlers of the lot. He will be ably backed by Mohit Sharma and Dhawal Kulkarni. The fans will have to wait till tomorrow to see whether Sandeep Sharma gets to play the first ODI. Stuart Binny will also add to the bowling lineup and Rahane will be looking to use him upfront as Dhoni used to do. The spin department will be lead by veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh with Axar Patel backing him.
Uthappa is likely to open the batting with Murali Vijay (who also made his way back into the ODI squad after quite some time). Rahane, who used to open the batting for Rajasthan Royals, might consider opening the batting as well. In that case Uthappa will be pushed down the order. The middle order is likely to be handled by Manish Pandey, Manoj Tiwary, Ambati Rayudu and Stuart Binny.
On the other hand, Zimbabwe have made four changes in their squad for the first ODI against India. All-rounder Malcom Waller made his way back into the ODI squad after he was left out of the ICC World Cup 2015. The other players who were recalled are seamer Donald Tiripano, all-rounder Neville Madziva and wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva.
Charles Coventry, Craig Ervine, Roy Kaia, Tawanda Mupariwa and Christopher Mpofu have been dropped for the upcoming ODI against India at home. These players featured during their tour of Pakistan.
"In terms of balance, we have opted for nine batters, four seamers and two specialist spinners and our objective is to try and win the series. India has picked a strong side and we are taking them seriously.
"Mpofu and Kaia will be considered for the next matches in the series and Charles Coventry is in the mix for the Twenty20 series. Ervine is still nursing a hamstring injury," outgoing convener of selectors Givemore Makoni said in a press release from Zimbabwe Cricket on Wednesday.
Here are the two squads for the first ODI:
India: Ajinkya Rahane (C), Ambati Rayudu, Manoj Tiwary, Murali Vijay, Kedar Jadhav, Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Harbhajan Singh, Axar Patel, Karn Sharma, Dhawal Kulkarni, Stuart Binny, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma and Mohit Sharma.
Zimbabwe: Elton Chigumbura (C), Sikandar Raza Butt, Regis Chakabva, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Graeme Cremer, Neville Madziva, Hamilton Masakadza, Richmond Mutumbami, Tinashe Panyangara, Vusimuzi Sibanda, Donald Tiripano, Prosper Utseya, Brian Vitori, Malcolm Waller and Sean Williams.