Zimbabwe’s chance to dispel doubt

Zimbabwe might not have the mercurial performers that cricket super power India boasts of, but the hosts will be inspired by a desperate need to cast away any doubt about their international pedigree in their five-match One-Day International series this month.

Report by Kevin Mapasure

Andy Waller’s first major concern after taking over earlier this year was the team’s fitness levels. He moved to fine-tune that area to help the boys bat and bowl better and all his efforts face their test in this series.

Last week India announced a strong squad despite missing some key players, which Zimbabwe national team assistant coach Steve Mangongo said would give his side the kind of test they have been yearning for.

“The India squad is a young side but a very dangerous one; they are the number one team; they have just won the ICC Champions Trophy and are playing very good cricket,” said Mangongo.

“We are happy they are sending such a strong side; this is what we have always wanted — play strong sides and compete against them. They have some uncapped players but considering the difficulty in getting into any Indian side, it means they are all good. The challenge is on us to show the world that we can play cricket.”

Mangongo said he was confident the Zimbabwe squad is strong enough to give a good challenge.

“Our squad was picked after a grueling process and everyone who is in deserved to be. For the first time quality players were dropped, which means we have a lot of guys working hard down there. It’s up to the players brought in now to prove their worth in the team.”

Mike Chinouya was picked ahead of Shingi Masakadza while Natsai Mushangwe, Tino Mutombodzi and Tymcen Maruma also earned places.

Zimbabwe’s best exponent of swing Brian Vitori is also in the squad as is Tendai Chatara to provide velocity.

India also misses some heavy artillery in Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav who are all rested as is captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni who is recovering from a hamstring injury.

On paper and in terms of international exposure, Zimbabwe has more experience.

The hosts have a caps total of 774 compared to India’s 548, but the tourists’ players are exposed to a stronger domestic league which boasts international stars.

Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor, batters Vusi Sibanda and Hamilton Masakadza as well as all-rounder Elton Chigumbura and spinner Prosper Utseya all have played more than a century of ODIs.

On the Indian side, stand-in captain Virat Kholi and Suresh Raina are the only two to have more than 100 caps in a squad that has six uncapped players but some of whom have played Tests.

The India squad has a total of 20 ODI centuries with Kholi contributing 13 of those while Zimbabwe has 11 with six coming from Taylor.

Zimbabwe’s squad has picked up more wickets with 258, while India’s side which has more uncapped players’ in the bowling department has 152.

Ravindra Jadeja is India’s highest wicket taker in the squad, with 82, while Prosper Utseya is the highest wicket taker in the hosts’ squad, with 113.

Zimbabwe squad; Brendan Taylor (capt), Vusi Sibanda, Hamilton Masakadza, Raza Butt, Malcolm Waller, Sean Williams, Elton Chigumbura, Prosper Utseya, Kyle Jarvis, Tino Mutombodzi, Natsai Mushangwe, Graeme Cremer, Tymcen Maruma, Mike Chinouya and Tendai Chatara.

India squad; Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Cheteshwar Pujara, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Parveez Rasool, Mohammed Shami, R Vinay Kumar, Jaidev Unadkat, Mohit Sharma.