Acid test for young Indian side against shaken-up Zimbabwe

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After a disappointing ICC World T20 campaign, where Zimbabwe failed to reach the Super 10 stage, the home series against India gives them a chance to start afresh in their quest to regain the ground they’ve lost through poor performances in the last 12 to 15 months. Up against a team that is well and truly on the other end of the spectrum, the task looks herculean. Zimbabwe last played One-Day Internationals (ODIs) in December 2015-January 2016, when lost 2-3 to Afghanistan in Sharjah. Less than 12 months ago, another Indian side filled with non-regulars arrived in Zimbabwe and clinched the ODI series 3-0. Despite lining up a full-strength squad against India’s second-string outfit, it will take a lot of effort for the Graeme Cremer-led side to upstage the visitors.
As for India, MS Dhoni brings with him a bunch of tyros, who will get the opportunity to prove that they belong to the big stage. Rookies they may be, but more than two-thirds of the squad comes in right after a competitive season of the Indian Premier League and could prove to be a handful for the hosts. The beauty of a series opener is that it allows two sides, irrespective of their qualities and skill level, to begin with blank slates. If Zimbabwe manage to exploit the lack of experience in the opposition camp, an engaging series could be on the cards.
India: Amidst the tyros and the IPL performers, Faiz Fazal stands out. The 30-year-old left-hander, who wasn’t part of IPL 2016, has been one of Vidarbha’s most consistent performers with the bat over the years and has waited patiently for his opportunity. With senior pros granted rest, Fazal could finally get to pull on the Indian jersey and slot into Shikhar Dhawan’s opening position, alongside KL Rahul. In tough batting conditions, a lot will revolve around the middle-order core of Manish Pandey, Ambati Rayudu and Karun Nair, who will be raring to leave an indelible mark if he is handed his ODI debut on Saturday (June 11). MS Dhoni should be the rock in the middle, guiding his young team to play to expectations.

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