Though India won the first One-Day International (ODI) against hosts Zimbabwe on Friday, it was far from a comprehensive victory.
The national cricket selectors took a step forward when they gave Ajinkya Rahane the captaincy — investing a huge amount of confidence in the Mumbaikar to lead the second string side as seniors, including Test skipper Virat Kohli and regular limited overs captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni opted to rest.
Though the start has not been great, Rahane would like to repay the faith by winning the second ODI at the Harare Sports Club on Sunday to seal a series win.
Ranked No.2 in ODIs, India barely managed to win — by four runs — against the African side, who are ranked way below at No.11. If Ambati Rayudu, who scored his second ODI century, and Stuart Binny’s sixth wicket partnership not clicked, India would have been into the match 0-1 down.
The duo, both of whom scored their highest ODI totals, came good to score a 160-run stand which saved the match for the visitors. Rahane also scored a good-looking 34 before being caught at slip.
But apart from these three, Indian batting order completely failed in the absence of the seniors. The bench strength faltered especially when needed, struggling against a team which is not even in the top-10 of ODI rankings.
Rahane’s men will need to come good if they want to win on Sunday and seal the series in their favour. No one can question the talent of players like Murali Vijay, Manoj Tiwary and Robin Uthappa but they need to deliver in the absence of Shikhar Dhawans, Rohit Sharmas and the Suresh Rainas.
The Indian bowlers also did not rise up to the occasion. They were more than capable of halting the Zimbabweans much earlier than leaving it to the last over, and literally the last ball, for the victory. Also, the number of extras was a concern. India in total gave away 18 extras, including nine wides and eight byes while defending a modest total of 255.
One can say that India did not get match practice to accilimatise to the conditions but in modern day cricket, these players are expected to deliver whatever the situation.
Another important thing that will be on India’s mind is the fact that if they wish to remain second in the ODI team rankings, they must win the series 3-0. A clean sweep will hold Rahane and his men in good stead and also solidify his position when the other seniors come back in to the side.