ICC Cricket World Cup 2015: Match Preview - India v Zimbabwe
True, Zimbabwe have won only 1 out of the 5 World Cup matches they’ve played so far, but that doesn’t reflect how well they have competed. They could, and should, have won two more matches, but failed at the final hurdle. This match against India presents them the opportunity to exit the tournament with their heads held high. A lot of credit must go to their coach Dav Whatmore who has done all the hard work to get Zimbabwe playing together as a team at the tournament.
India are assured of the top spot in pool B irrespective of how things pan out against the Zimbabweans, so this could be the right opportunity for them to experiment, if at all they want to. MS Dhoni, with the win over Ireland, surpassed Sourav Ganguly (8) as the Indian captain with most consecutive World Cup wins (9) and equalled the legendary Clive Lloyd. It will be an added incentive for the man from Ranchi to keep the winning run going.
The men in blue have been brilliant in the tournament so far, but suffered a blip in each of their last two games – against West Indies and Ireland. But, with 5 consecutive wins, India, along with New Zealand, are the most in-form side at the tournament.
The bowlers were put to a stern test by the Irish openers, but they proved that they were strong enough to stage a comeback and restrict the Irish men to a chaseable total. The batsmen have done brilliantly well, especially Shikhar Dhawan who has scored two centuries and a half-century in the 5 matches so far.
First time in the history of Indian cricket, the bowlers have captured all the 50 wickets 5 consecutive times They have ensured that they keep fighting and make amends whenever the opposition batsman have tried to dominate. The only concern, though, would be the lack of batting for the middle order and lower middle order. They haven't flourished as much as they are expected to in the death overs.
The Zimbabweans have fared well, but the points column doesn't convey how good they have been. They have scored runs in every game, but have faltered in crucial conditions. Whatmore has instilled belief in his players, and if their performances at the previous matches are anything to go by, they look ready to face the defending champions. However, their bowlers have lacked the consistency and will need to be more disciplined against a run-hungry Indian team.
Zimbabwe started their campaign brightly in a chase of 340 against South Africa before they fell for the guile of Imran Tahir. They have been neck and neck to their opponents in terms of the runs scored barring the game against West Indies where they were plundered for plenty by the Jamaicans in Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels. Their last game against Ireland was their best; unfortunately, though, they lost it after coming so close to chasing down the target of 332.
Their bowlers have struggled to pick wickets and contain the opposition, and that is where they have lost a lot of games. Sean Williams turns out to be their second best bowler in terms of the wickets picked, and no bowler has an economy rate of less than 5 runs per over. Batting has been the strong point, and Taylor and Williams, in particular, have been inspirational. This match will be more of a fight to prove that they are no pushovers.
India may bring in the likes of Axar Patel and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar if Dhoni wishes to give some of his bowlers a well-deserved rest. The batting order is likely to remain the same, as apart from the top 3, the rest haven't got much game time in the tournament.
For Zimbabwe, this match will be a matter of pride. They have a wonderful opportunity to repeat an encore of the 1999 World Cup where they thumped Indians with an upset win. If they manage to achieve it, it will be a huge boost for the players and the coach to take them along the right path and ensure that their past glory is not lost all that easily.
Bowlers have to come to the fore and ensure that they try and restrict India's mighty batting line up. If Elton Chigumbura is fully fit, Regis Chakbava is likely to be the player who will make way for him.
Players to watch out for
Rohit Sharma has shown flashes of brilliance as usual, but it is time that the openers fire together as that would ease the pressure on the middle order and ensure they put enough runs on the board. Ravindra Jadeja hasn't done justice to what his captain believes he can deliver. This will be a crucial game for both these players to make it count before the team enters the knockout phase.
Taylor and Williams have been consistent throughout the five games, especially Williams whose all-round skills are proving to be an asset to the team. Opener Sikandar Raza has to come good, which might help him to resurrect his career which is heading towards a downward spiral.
The ground resembles a baseball diamond, which can flummox visiting captains when it comes to field placements. So far, two matches have been played on this ground – New Zealand v Australia and Pakistan v South Africa – and the conditions have favoured pace bowlers with the likes of Trent Boult, Mitchell Starc, Rahat Ali and Wahab Riaz cashing in to pick crucial wickets.
India: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, A Patel, Mohit Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami
Zimbabwe: Sikandar Raza, Chamu Chibhabha, Hamilton Masakadza, Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams, Craig Ervine, Elton Chigumbura, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Tendai Chatara, Tinashe Panyangara, Tawanda Mupariwa