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What is India doing in Zimbabwe?

by Naked Cricket

Searching for the next Robin Singh? Or the next Dhoni?
Robin Singh played one Test. It was against Zimbabwe. Surprisingly it didn’t end in a tie. He was consistent, as he always was against Zimbabwe, scoring 15 and 12. He was leg before wicket in both innings. He bowled 10 overs. Apt as Robin Singh was basically a one-day cricketer. Even in a Test, he bowled his complete one-day quota.
Robin Singh will always be remembered for his first ODI against Zimbabwe. It ended in a tie. On the second last ball of the last over, Robin Singh was run out. His 48 off 31 deliveries gave India a sniff, just as his run out gave Zimbabwe a sniff. Barely two weeks later, Robin-the-batman beat Zimbabwe the team. He was there at the end. Tendulkar scored yet another century but it was Robin’s 38 that pulled off the win.
A career average of 25 shot up to 40 against Zimbabwe. Even his strike rate sneaked up to 81 from 74. In his last ODI against the old foe, Robin’s world came full circle – he was run out, unfortunately it wasn’t a tie.
Since then, India-Zimbabwe games have just not been the same. Enter Ambati Rayudu who played his first and last ODI both against Zimbabwe. This is no small coincidence. While Robin Singh was 34 when he played Zimbabwe, Rayudu was nearly 28. His first ODI (also against Zimbabwe) was no less spectacular – he made an unbeaten half century, taking India across the line. Rayudu’s batting average nearly doubles against Zimbabwe, from 45 to 89, his highest score, 124 not out is also against them. This will be Rayudu’s third series in Zimbabwe. He may not be a regular in the one-day side yet, but he’ll always have Zimbabwe.
Karun Nair makes the squad, somewhat impossibly, on the back of a steady IPL with Delhi Daredevils. While DD was doubly determined to lose four-five wickets in the power play, Nair stood firm, playing almost classical risk-free cricket.
Twice now a century has changed Manish Pandey’s world. First when he became the only Indian to score one in the IPL, and more recently, his ton in Australia. Like Rayudu, Pandey too made his ODI debut against Zimbabwe. Like Rayudu, he too scored a half century. Kedar Jadhav too has happy memories of Zimbabwe, he scored his first ODI hundred against them, an unbeaten 105. That too batting at No. 6.
Nair, Rayudu, Pandey and Jadhav will be India’s mainstay, their collective form could decide the outcome of the series on seamer friendly wickets.
Both KL Rahul and Mandeep Singh are yet to make their ODI debuts. In Gayle’s absence, Rahul had Kohli’s stamp of approval and opened with him in the IPL. His lacks behind the stumps were adequately made up in front of them. Once a mainstay for Kings XI Punjab, Mandeep played just one match this IPL for RCB – he did not get to bat. KL Rahul will be expected to open the batting, Mandeep Singh, if he plays, could accompany him on top.
None of these will be the next Robin Singh though, because for that, you need an all-rounder of sorts, someone with a Mumbai Indians’ connection – how about Rishi Dhawan? Dhawan has played all his three ODIs against Australia, didn’t do much with the ball, didn’t do much with the bat. Will be more of a batting all-rounder than a proper all-rounder, so don’t expect to see the next Kapil Dev. If anything, the next Robin Singh - to confirm, keep a look out for a tied match.
Nine years back, Dhoni set sail for Africa with a team sans Tendulkar and Dravid. It was a young, inexperienced bunch. Not rated. From the bunch that went on to win that first World T20, except for Dhoni and Rohit, no player is an India regular these days. From the bunch that sets sail for Africa now, except for Dhoni and Bumrah, no player is an India regular these days. Nine years back, that bunch of boys helped Dhoni invent himself. Today, can this bunch of boys help Dhoni reinvent himself?  “Hurry boy, she’s waiting there for you!”

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