An India-Zimbabwe series doesn't elicit a lot of excitement considering the low-profile nature of the hosts, and the fact that Zimbabwe are not the same team they were a couple of decades ago. This is one of the reasons why India often decide to rest seniors when it comes to playing a series against Zimbabwe. At the same time, the nation has often proved to be a banana peel tour for the Indians. Till as late as 2001, they were losing series' in Zimbabwe. Even on their previous tour to the country, when they again went with a weakened side, they ended up losing the last T20. It is imperative that India don't take Zimbabwe lightly even though MS Dhoni describing the tour as a 'big challenge' was taking it a bit too far.
The series will be an opportunity for youngsters to shine, with a number of senior players rested. Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have been given a break while Suresh Raina has perhaps been dropped again. Among the players getting a deserved chance is Manish Pandey. The talented youngster has performed reasonably well in the limited opportunities that he has been given for Team India. But, he has been unlucky to not to find a permanent place in the team with most of the slots in the middle order booked. With the Zimbabwe tour, Pandey gets another chance to reclaim his stake.
IPL stars Mandeep Singh and Karun Nair have also been selected. Both have played some excellent knocks for their respective franchises and will be looking to carry on the good work into the international arena as well. Another interesting selection is Lokesh Rahul. He broke into international cricket as a Test opener, and already has a couple of Test tons to his name, after a horror debut. But, he held his own against the likes of AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli playing for RCB in the recent IPL season. And, that was a significant achievement. Ambati Rayudu also makes a comeback, and will be keen to perform.
India's bowling too wears a different look for the series. With no Mohammed Shami or Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah will suddenly be pitchforked into the role of lead bowler, just a few games after making his international debut. He has been impressive ever since making it to the national squad, but it remains to be seen whether he can carry on with the good work. Bumrah will be supported by Barinder Sran, Jaydev Unadkat and Dhawal Kulkarni, all of whom have represented India before, but are yet to establish themselves. They will look at this opportunity as one while debutant Yuzvendra Chahal will be looking to impress as well.
As always, Zimbabwe's aim will be to play spoilsport. They will be led by Graeme Cremer, who over the years, has established himself as a dependable bowler. Yet again though Zimbabwe will be seeking their experienced hands to stand up. In the batting department, they have a number of seasoned campaigners in Elton Chigumbura, Vusi Sibanda, Sean Williams, Sikandar Raza, Hamilton Masakadza and Craig Ervine. Among the bowlers, the hosts would look forward to good efforts from skipper Cremer himself. But, they also have talented names like Donald Tiripano, Wellington Masakadza and Tendai Chatara.
--By A Cricket Analyst