More than a few eyebrows were raised when Ajinkya Rahane was named captain for the tour of Zimbabwe, as it was thought that India was looking at the series lightly. The last time India sent a second string team to Zimbabwe, under the leadership of Suresh Raina in 2010, they failed to make the final of a tri series. The results were much more promising this time around as India won all three One Day Internationals (ODIs) and squared the T20 series 1-1. While the lack of experience was evident on more than one occasion, here’s a look at the five biggest positives from the series:
1. Binny’s emergence as an all rounder
Ever since Irfan Pathan faded into oblivion, India has struggled to find a seam bowling all rounder. While Stuart Binny had played a few ODIs before the series, he had never really got a chance to display his ability with the bat. Binny topped wicket taking charts for India with 6 wickets and was the 3rd highest scorer with 120 runs in the three matches. With India’s first choice all rounders being rested, Binny made the most of his opportunity and fully justified his selection. He can be a good inclusion at number 7 in the future.
2. Bhuvneshwar shows he’s no one trick pony
When Bhuvneshwar Kumar first burst onto the international stage, he gained prodigious swing with the new ball and MS Dhoni preferred to bowl him out by the 35th over. However, Bhuvneshwar is no longer a new ball specialist and the second one day was a classic example of the same. While he picked up the key wickets of Hamilton Masakadza and Elton Chigumbura in a probing spell with the new ball, he was clinical at the death as he cleaned up Graeme Cremer and Donald Tiripano with minimum fuss.
3. Rahane announces himself as a leader
Ajinkya Rahane doesn’t strike most observers as a natural captain but his captaincy was impressive, especially in the ODIs where he displayed nous and calm under pressure. He became only the third Indian captain after Kapil Dev to inflict a white wash on the opposition in his maiden series as captain. He promoted himself to open the batting, but could only manage a high score of 63 in three innings as opener. The excellent form of Ambati Rayudu might bring his place into question in the first choice Indian team.
4. Jadhav’s new record
Kedar Jadhav became the fastest Indian to score a maiden century in ODIs when he scored a hundred in the third ODI, which was his fourth ODI appearance for India. Jadhav led a charmed life through the innings, though, and will need to improve his shot selection against better bowlers in more helpful conditions. Having missed out in the first two games, he made the most of his inclusion by smashing his century off 86 balls. His acceleration after getting to 50 was remarkable as he took only 22 balls to go from 50 to 100.
5. Return of the Turbanator
When Harbhajan Singh was included in the squad to tour Zimbabwe, it was a sad reflection on the dearth of quality young spinners in India. Many experts termed it a retrograde step, but Harbhajan justified his inclusion by picking 4 wickets in 3 games at a miserly economy rate of 3.66. Only Bhuvneshwar Kumar had a better economy rate among Indian bowlers. Harbhajan applied a noose around the batsmen in the middle overs which choked the run rate and showed that he still has enough in the tank to challenge for a spot in the first choice eleven.
While the loss in the final T20 exposed a few chinks in India’s young turks, like their inability to chase challenging targets under pressure, it was a bout which threw up a few more options for India’s selectors as most of the players justified the selectors’ faith in them.