India vs Zimbabwe 2016: A facile series win - Did we really achieve anything?
So another one-sided one-day series is over. This was a series that everyone expected to be one-sided, so no one should be surprised with the final result, but the manner in which it happened was disappointing. Zimbabwe’s performance started as bad, became worse in game 2, and they reserved their worst for the third one, as illustrated by the sequence of scores below:
First match – 168 all out off 49.5 overs
Second match – 126 all out off 34.3 overs (Although they were 9 down as Sean Williams was absent hurt)
Third match – 123 all out off 42.2 overs
The scores kept coming down and they didn’t bat out their 50 overs on any occasion.
Team India, by contrast, kept getting better by every match, and lost a total of 3 wickets in the 3 matches, which goes to show how dominant their batsmen were, or just how poor the Zimbabwe bowlers were, whichever way you want to see it!
Normally any team would be over-joyed with achieving a one-day series whitewash, that too overseas, but does this hold true for this Indian team? Would they be happy with the work-out they got in these 3 games? Has anything really been achieved?
Well, the simple answer is: You don’t win a 3 match Cricket series 3-0 without getting any positives out of it, and this series was no exception. There are positives for sure. KL Rahul made his one-day debut and scored almost 200 runs in the series, getting out just once.
Jasprit Bumrah further increased his reputation as a one-day bowler and took 9 wickets in the series, at an average of less than 9 runs per wicket. Yuzvendra Chahal too was not far behind, picking up 6 wickets at a decent average and hugely impressive economy rate.
These 3 were the biggest positives of the series, because as per me, neither can we count Rayudu’s 2 good innings as this series’ positives since he’s a proven performer and in fact, was the man of the series against the same opponents last year, nor can we really read much into Faiz’s fifty on debut, simply owing to the quality of the opposition’s bowling attack.
But what would irk a fan, as well as the selectors perhaps, is that most of the players didn’t really get a chance to show their talent. Let’s look at some players who couldn’t do much to enhance their chances for the future:
1) I’m sure the selectors would have liked to see if Manish Pandey can carry over his good form from the ODIs in Australia and seal the middle order spot that for the moment, is vacant, owing to Suresh Raina’s poor recent form.
Can he anchor an innings if he comes in at no.6 with the score reading 60/4? Can he provide the finishing flourish if he comes in the 43rd over? Can he drive a chase again, like he did against Australia or was that a one-off?
None of these questions could be answered in this series as all he got to face was one ball, which he duly dispatched to the boundary to seal a win in the 2nd ODI.
2) Kedar Jadhav scored a ton against the same team when he last wore the Indian colors in an ODI, exactly a year ago. He never got a chance to cement his place after that as he wasn’t picked for the one-day tours that followed, hence, he’d have been eagerly looking forward to this series to further enhance his credentials as a one-day batsman. But what happened?
He didn’t get a chance to bat, at all!
India next play New Zealand in a one-day series in September-October, and we can be sure that against an opponent like New Zealand, at home, team India won’t like to take many chances by fielding a second string XI, and all the “first choice” players like Rohit, Shikhar, Virat, Ajinkya will be back in the line-up.
When that happens, is there any chance that someone like Kedar Jadhav will retain his place in the 15? One can be sure there’s almost no chance, as the backup batsman, in all likelihood, will be from KL Rahul, Ambati Rayudu and Manish Pandey since they’ve performed in the given chances, and poor Kedar, couldn’t, as he never got a chance!
3) While his one-day bowling has never been in much doubt, what led to Axar Patel’s axing from the team was that he couldn’t impress with his batting at no. 7 in the matches he played for India. As a total of just 91 runs from 15 one day innings at an average of 10.11 suggests he got ample chances to show his prowess with the bat but could never cash in.
This series would have been a great opportunity for him to show what he can do as a batsman at no.7 and if he can replace Ravindra Jadeja in the line-up. More so since he showed some good hitting form in the recently concluded IPL and Jadeja wasn’t in great touch as a batsman, but all he could do was something he does day in and day out; bowl tight spells in the middle overs.
A chance to shine with the bat was something he never got, so come the next one-day series, will he be retained or axed in favor of Jadeja again? We’ll know in a few months!
4) Rishi Dhawan, who as per statistics, is unquestionably India’s most promising young pace bowling all-rounder, didn’t even get a game.
The guy averages almost 38 in List-A matches at a strike rate in the 90s, across 58 games. Add to that, 74 wickets in these games at a strike rate of 37 and what you get is a complete package; someone who should comfortably slot in at no. 7 or 8 in the limited overs line-up. The fact that he’s 26 must also work in his favor.
But how would one know how good he is at the international level if he’s picked in the 15 but doesn’t get a chance to break into the XI? This series might have been a great chance to pick him and have him bowl all his 10 overs every game, to see if he can take the new ball in ODIs and bat in the lower order, just like Irfan Pathan did, but alas!
Come the next one-day series, one can be sure that as soon as the team returns to “full-strength”, most or almost all of these players mentioned above will not see their names in the squad of 15 when the team is announced, but will that be their fault?
Will that be because they got their chance but didn’t capitalize? Will that be because they’re not good enough or injured or not in form?
That’ll just be because unfortunately, they were picked to play against a team that offered no fight, no resistance, and surrendered meekly in all games. Maybe they’d have been much better off playing against some Ranji, or even a club level team, so as to at least be able to do something to show what they’ve got, rather than sitting in the dressing room and/or just fielding and carrying drinks!