With the stars left at home, India’s tour of Zimbabwe this month was billed as an opportunity for some younger fringe players to make their mark and state their case for regular inclusion heading toward next year’s prestigious Champions Trophy. It did not take long for one man to put his name firmly in the spotlight.
On his One-Day International debut, 24-year-old Kannaur Lokesh Rahul scored an unbeaten century, firing a six to reach the milestone and get India over the line for the 169 runs required with nine wickets and 45 balls still remaining. In doing so, Rahul, opening the batting, became the first Indian ever to hit a century on debut. The impressive innings follows the century he got in his second Test match against Austria in January, 2015. And Rahul, fresh from helping Royal Challengers Bangalore to the final of the Indian Premier League, believes he can now be prominent player in all formats of cricket.
“Obviously with good performances in the last couple of months the confidence is there and I always knew I had the game and I had the skill-sets to be successful in all the three formats," he said, reports ESPN Cricinfo.
"It was just about getting opportunities, a few good games and the confidence in myself and the belief in me to go out there and know that I can perform well at any level in any format. So that happened in the last two months and I'm just carrying the same confidence into this series. I've just come from a good IPL and I carried the same momentum into this game, been watching the ball well."
Rahul was just one of three debutantes in Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side for the first ODI. But, while Zimbabwe was disappointed at not having the first-choice India lineup make the trip, the Chevrons were still outclassed by its inexperienced opponents. While Rahul starred with the bat, fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah continued his fine start to international cricket, taking four wickets in what was just his second ODI.
It means India will now go into Monday’s second ODI, again in Harare, with a chance to claim a first ODI series victory with Dhoni at the helm since November 2014. Zimbabwe, meanwhile, must regroup fast if it is to have a chance of winning a ODI series against a Full International Cricket Council Member for the first time since 2013.
After recent poor performances at the 50-over World Cup and World Twenty20, losing to a makeshift India team would be just the latest disappointment for cricket in Zimbabwe. And interim captain Graeme Cremer has called for a much better performance from his side on Monday.
“Indian batsmen showed how easy batting can get once you get in,” he said, according to the Indian Express. “Our seamers bowled well, but it just didn’t go our way. We know we’re much better than that, and we can hopefully win the next game to make the third ODI a final.”
Match Time: 3 a.m. EDT
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