Chevrons face their biggest test

18 Aug, 2022 - 00:08 0 Views
Chevrons face their biggest test CALM BEFORE THE STORM . . . Zimbabwe cricket team players warm-up before a practise session ahead of the opening ODI match against India at Harare Sports Club today. — Photo by Zimbabwe Cricket

The Herald

TRANSFORMED Zimbabwe cricket team face their biggest challenge since Dave Houghton became their coach two months ago when they host India in a series of three one-day internationals, starting today at Harare Sports Club. 

Although several stars, including batters Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, are being rested ahead of the Asia Cup in the UAE this month, the tourists are expected to win all three matches in Harare. 

India are placed third behind leaders New Zealand and England in the ODI rankings, 10 places above Zimbabwe. 

Under the guidance of 64-year-old former batting star Houghton, Zimbabwe have won nine of 11 ODI and Twenty20 internationals. 

With Houghton in charge, hosts Zimbabwe beat non-Test teams Jersey, Singapore, the United States, Papua New Guinea and the Netherlands to qualify for the 2022 T20 World Cup. 

Higher-ranked Bangladesh were expected to burst the bubble, but suffered shock 2-1 losses in both T20 and ODI series. 

Pakistan-born batsman Sikandar Raza, whose childhood dream to be a fighter pilot was dashed by an eyesight glitch, played a key role in the ODI series with successive centuries.

“He is a very good player who has been representing Zimbabwe with distinction for a long time,” said India vice-captain and opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan. 

“Sikandar is a quality cricketer with bat and ball. I am sure our bowlers will come up with nice plans against him.” 

Houghton said the unbeaten innings of 135 and 117 by the 36-year-old had a knock-on effect as they instilled confidence in his teammates. 

“Playing alongside Sikandar, Innocent Kaia hit a century in his first ODI, then Regis Chakabva scored his first ODI ton with some brilliant shots.” 

Former West Indies fast bowler Ian Bishop hailed the Raza tons, tweeting “The things that Sikandar Raza has been doing in recent weeks with the bat deserve wider recognition”. 

Although missing Kohli and Sharma, Houghton says there is no such thing as a weak India cricket team. 

“They could pick four teams and then occupy the first four places in an international tournament. That is how good they are. 

“However, I told my boys that we dare not become mere spectators in this series while India play all the cricket. We must believe we can win. 

“The boys know they are far from invincible despite nine victories — we were 90 for nine in our last ODI against Bangladesh before the tail-enders added 61 runs. 

“But if we continue to play without fear and express ourselves, we will succeed far more than we fail.” 

Houghton pinpointed poor batting starts as a concern, and vowed to “try and get higher scores from our top order”. 

Opening batsman and wicketkeeper Chakabva skippers Zimbabwe in place of injured Craig Ervine today as the home team seek only a fifth ODI victory over India at home in 24 matches. 

Injuries have also ruled out Blessing Muzarabani (thigh), Tendai Chatara (collarbone) and Wellington Masakadza (shoulder) while former captain Sean Williams is unavailable.

India had to make a late change to a 16-strong squad with all-rounder Shahbaz Ahmed coming in for Washington Sundar, who was injured playing English county cricket. 

Opening batsman KL Rahul, a late inclusion after recovering from a hernia injury and testing positive for coronavirus, leads the tourists. 

India and Zimbabwe have faced each other in 63 matches in ODI. Out of these 63 games, India have won 51 whereas Zimbabwe have come out victorious on 10 occasions. Two matches ended tied. 

Meanwhile, with India set to face Zimbabwe in a three-match ODI series, the home fans in Harare will have their eyes on Pakistan-born Sikandar Raza. 

Born in Sialkot, Raza has represented Zimbabwe in 17 Tests, 117 ODIs and 58 T20Is in his nine-year-long international career and has been a prolific run-scorer in white-ball cricket for them. For India to perform according to the script, the bowlers will need to operate well against the 36-year-old. To negate Raza’s threat, former Zimbabwe captain Dirk Viljoen has come up with a solution for the Indian bowlers.

Speaking to Hindustan Times during a brief interaction, he said: “I think that one thing Sikandar Raza likes to do is, he’s an aggressive player. He loves to play shots and more importantly likes to score. I think for India, if they can stop him from scoring and put him under pressure, that will assist him. 

“He carries a lot of weight on his shoulders. We’ve been in this little meeting for 5 minutes and everyone is talking about Sikandar Raza, so that’s going to add pressure on him as well. He will carry that weight on his shoulders because not only his team, himself along with the public and the general population of Zimbabwe will be calling out for Sikandar Raza to perform. That’ll play into India’s hands. 

“All of a sudden you are playing really well, you decide to change a shot, you get yourself out. If India can contain him, get him to the other side, bowl at the other batters and put him under pressure. That way is to force him to make a mistake”, he further added. 

With KL Rahul leading Team India, the first ODI will be held in Harare Sports Club today, followed by the second ODI on Saturday and third ODI on Monday. Wicketkeeper-batter Sanju Samson, who missed out on India’s Asia Cup 2022 squad despite being in good form, will also be the cynosure of all eyes.

Play today starts at 9:15am.

Teams

Zimbabwe (probable): 1. Takudzwanashe Kaitano, 2. Tadiwanashe Marumani, 3. Innocent Kaia, 4. Wessly Madhevere, 5. Sikandar Raza, 6. Regis Chakabva (capt, wk), 7. Ryan Burl/Tony Munyonga, 8. Luke Jongwe, 9. Brad Evans, 10. Victor Nyauchi, 11. Tanaka Chivanga.

India: 1. Shikhar Dhawan, 2. Shubman Gill, 3. Ruturaj Gaikwad, 4. KL Rahul (capt), 5. Sanju Samson/Ishan Kishan (wk), 6. Deepak Hooda, 7. Axar Patel, 8. Shardul Thakur/Deepak Chahar, 9. Kuldeep Yadav, 10. Mohammed Siraj, 11. Prasidh Krishna/Avesh Khan. — AFP

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