India vs Zimbabwe 2016 - Five possible gains for the Indian team
Team India embarks on a tour of Zimbabwe where they are scheduled to play 3 ODIs and an equal no. of T20s. The last time they went to Zimbabwe, the team was captained by Ajinkya Rahane, and it clean swept Zimbabwe in the ODIs, and levelled the T20 series.
Between now and then, Rahane has become one of the premier batsmen in the team and has been elevated to the test team’s vice-captaincy. The rise in his stature can further be judged by the fact that he is among the players who have not been picked for this tour so as to be fresh before the start of a grueling test season that’ll see our team play 17 test matches in the next year!
So a young Indian team has been sent for this tour, wherein with the exception of captain MS Dhoni and Ambati Rayudu (who has played 31 ODIs) , no other player has played even 25 ODIs, and 5 are yet to play international cricket. The inexperience of this squad can be ascertained by this once stat, that with 275 ODIs and 68 T20Is, the captain has more experience than the other 15 players combined - 83 ODIs and 28 T20Is. Staggering!
Now, the question that arises is – What does team India stand to gain from a tour like this?
Let’s look at the areas where this tour can help the team discover something fruitful for the future:
#1 A good back-up opener:
That Rohit and Shikhar are the team’s first choice openers in limited overs cricket is no secret. Both of them enjoy the captain’s confidence and backing, and to be fair to them, they have indeed performed relatively consistently at the highest level to deserve that.
But what if one of them gets injured or has a massive loss of form? Who’s the immediate replacement who can slot seamlessly into the opener’s role, without the team having to do with a make-shift arrangement of moving a middle order batsman to the top?
Ajinkya Rahane has been batting at no. 4 for quite some time now and as he’s settling into that role as a senior batsman now, it wouldn’t make much sense to move him back to opening and weakening the middle order should such a situation arise. Hence, the need of a specialist back-up opener.
This team selected for Zimbabwe has a few candidates – K L Rahul and Faiz Fazal as specialist openers and even Mandeep Singh and Karun Nair, based on their past opening experience in the IPL, if the team management wants to try them; so potentially 4 options here, and 6 games for them to make a mark and cement a spot as a reserve limited overs opener.
The front-runner: KL Rahul – Owing to his IPL form and past international experience of having scored 2 test hundreds. Also the fact that he can take the wicket-keeping gloves in case of an emergency.