ODI series preview: Zimbabwe v India

India

Zimbabwe and India have faced each other only twice in the past eight years, back in 2010 where the African side won both ODIs in Harare, and this five-match series will be more important to both sides than people may think.

Zimbabwe and India have faced each other only twice in the past eight years, back in 2010 where the African side won both ODIs in Harare, and this five-match series will be more important to both sides than people may think.

It is tempting, and probably accurate, to think India will walk this series, but one suspects that even though they are the top ODI side, the Zimbabweans will give them a fight. The hosts have been training together for two months to prepare for their biggest challenge this year.

The economic benefits for Zimbabwe cricket, for both the organisation and the players, will be huge. As sometimes Cricket365 columnist Tristan Holme pointed out on Wisden India, "With such limited sponsorship within Zimbabwe there are very few sources of income that can reverse that (debt) trend. Hosting India is obviously the biggest one, and it could not have come at a better time. The march towards insolvency otherwise seemed inexorable."

Money aside, Zimbabwe have a skipper in Brendan Taylor akin to Australia's Michael Clarke in influence. During the 2010 tri-series (Sri Lanka were the third side), Taylor scored big half centuries in both games Zimbabwe won against India, and the pressure will be on him again.

Actually, Clarke would probably like to be able to call on Zim's top six at the moment, with Vusi Sibanda and Hamilton Masakadza valuable commodities. Sibanda scored a century and some other good knocks against Bangladesh earlier this year, while Masakadza made 69 against Australia A last week.

As for the home bowlers, Kyle Jarvis took four wickets against the Aussies, including Aaron Finch and David Warner, while veteran spinner Ray Price is fit to play from the second game onwards. Spinner Tinotenda Mutombodzi will prove a handful on the dry track in Harare.

India have not sent a full strength side, but they have not sent a bunch of rookies either. They will be using the series to blood new debutants, as well as do some research into southern African conditions ahead of the Test series in South Africa at the end of the year.

In the absence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, 23-year-old Virat Kohli is being handed the chance to lead the side for a full series, and he will be keen to make his mark as Dhoni's heir apparent. He led a few games in the Caribbean, but this tour will be entirely his baby.

Of the five potential debutants, the most eagerly anticipated is that of batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, who has become a must-have in the Test side but has yet to get a chance in coloured gear. He averages 65 in Tests, and will look for some big scores on the slow-ish pitches.

The India batting line up, Pujara aside, is similar to the one that lost two games in 2010, but this time Ravi Jadeja and Suresh Raina are more experienced, and Jadeja in particular has grown into a solid all-rounder.

Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are all back home, giving chances to some fringe players, like Amit Mishra and Vinay Kumar. Spinner Parvez Rasool will become the first player from Kashmir to represent India if he makes his debut.

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<b>Key Men</b><br>For the hosts, skipper <b>Brendan Taylor</b> is the key man, without a doubt. If he does well, the team does well. If he doesn't, they don't. He will need to up his game though, after some poor knocks in recent games, but he did get a ton against the Tigers.

India's toast of the town at the moment is <b>Ravi Jadeja</b>, whose confidence has grown along with his moustache. His spin bowling has become integral to the side's success, as evidenced in the Champions Trophy and the Caribbean tri-series, and he will be a handful for the Zimbabweans.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2010, 2nd ODI: Zimbabwe won by seven wickets in Harare<br>2010. 1st ODI: Zimbabwe won by six wickets in Bulawayo<br>2005, 2nd ODI: India won by four wickets in Harare<br>2005, 1st ODI: India won by 161 runs in Harare<br>2004, VB Series: India won by four wickets in Perth

<b>Squads</b><br><i>Zimbabwe:</i> Brendan Taylor (capt and wk), Sikandar Raza, Tendai Chatara, Michael Chinouya, Elton Chigumbura, Graeme Cremer, Kyle Jarvis, Timycen Maruma, Hamilton Masakadza, Natsai M'shangwe, Tinotenda Mutombodzi, Vusimuzi Sibanda, Prosper Utseya, Brian Vitori, Malcolm Waller, Sean Williams

<i>India</i>: Virat Kohli (capt.), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Cheteshwar Pujara, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Parvez Rasool, Shami Ahmed, R Vinay Kumar, Jaydev Unadkat, Mohit Sharma

<b>Fixtures – all 07:00 GMT (09:00 SAST)</b><br>1st ODI: 24 July, Harare<br>2nd ODI: 26 July, Harare<br>3rd ODI: 28 July, Harare<br>4th ODI: 1 August, Bulawayo<br>5th ODI: 3 August, Bulawayo

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