India will attempt to bounce back from a humbling series loss to Bangladesh when starting their one-day series with Zimbabwe on Friday. In their first ODI outings since relinquishing their World Cup title, India suffered back-to-back shock defeats in Bangladesh before coming back to claim victory in the final match of the series. It left the team facing much criticism at home and with the futures of several players, including captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, called into question.
However, few of those involved against Bangladesh will get the chance to atone for the defeat in Zimbabwe. India has taken a much-changed squad on tour for the three-match series as they seek to find players who can make a contribution for the bigger challenges that lie ahead. The likes of Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina have been left at home, with Ajinkya Rahane captaining the team. Murali Vijay is expected to get a rare chance to impress at the top of the order, while all-rounder Axar Patel is likely to be handed another opportunity after coming into the team for the final two matches against Bangladesh. Yet, despite all the changes, Rahane insists that India won’t be underestimating their opponents.
“Bangladesh is in the past now for us. We are thinking about the present series and our plan will be to back our strengths and back our games, rather than looking at Zimbabwe's strengths,” he said, according to The Times of India. “[We want to] give our best and play to our potential. We are here to win games,
“In a positive way, it is a good opportunity for all of us to express ourselves. We are taking Zimbabwe very seriously. This is a good platform to showcase our talent here, do well at the international level. Everywhere we go, we take every opponent very seriously. We want to play our game and back our strengths.”
Zimbabwe are coming into the contests on the back of a 2-0 ODI series defeat to Pakistan at the end of May. And there was disappointment at the World Cup, too, when they crashed out at the group phase, losing five of their six matches, including to India. Having fallen to 11th in the ODI rankings, and the recent confirmation that the next World Cup will feature just 10 teams, Zimbabwe now badly need to get some positive results going forward.
A home series with an understrength India team should provide a chance to do just that, but coach Dav Whatmore explained that the situation brings its own complexities.
“[India] are a great team, but then they've changed their group [for this tour],” he said, reports ESPN. “And it's almost like a different pressure now: that you're expected to do well. If you win, people might say they're only a second rate team, and if you lose it's 'bloody hell you can't even beat a second rate team.’ It's a little bit tricky.”
1st ODI: Friday, July 10 at 3 a.m. EDT, Harare
2nd ODI: Sunday, July 12 at 3 a.m. EDT, Harare
3rd ODI: Tuesday, July 14 at 3 a.m. EDT, Harare
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