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IND vs ZIM 2022, 1st ODI: Spotlight on KL Rahul as India prepares to bludgeon through Zimbabwe

India and Zimbabwe meet in the 1st ODI in Harare on Thursday. The spotlight will be on KL Rahul, who returns to international cricket after nearly three months, while he will also be leading the side.

IND vs ZIM 2022, 1st ODI: Spotlight on KL Rahul as India prepares to bludgeon through Zimbabwe-ayh
Harare, First Published Aug 18, 2022, 2:00 AM IST

Indian skipper KL Rahul's form and fitness will be observed minutely when India takes on Zimbabwe in a three-match One-Day International (ODI) series, starting Thursday, despite the format losing its popularity and struggles to retain its identity. Supposed to be one of the most central cogs in India's top-order for the ICC T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia, Rahul would be eager to utilise the game time he gets as an opener to the fullest during the three matches against Regis Chakabva and co. After a two-month layoff, during which he underwent a sports hernia surgery, Rahul's straightforward task would be to keep his opening slot in T20 cricket, besides adapting to the team's philosophy of going all-out from ball one.

It would not just be about runs that skipper Rohit Sharma or head coach Rahul Dravid would be looking at when they monitor Rahul's performance in Zimbabwe. Instead, they would like to check out his approach and how he scores, something he would need to tweak before that opening Asia Cup T20 2022 match against arch-rival Pakistan on August 28 at the Dubai International Stadium.

The Harare Sports Club is a batting belter, where Zimbabwe chased down 300 plus and 290-odd targets in straight matches in the recently-concluded series against Bangladesh. India's batting line-up with Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Shubman Gill, Deepak Hooda and Sanju Samson will undoubtedly be more than a handful for hosts.

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And, unlike Bangladesh, a bowling attack consisting of Mohammed Siraj, Prasidh Krishna, Deepak Chahar, Kuldeep Yadav, all-rounders Shardul Thakur, and Axar Patel has more muscle in any conditions against this Zimbabwe order. For Zimbabwe, the purpose would be to become the proverbial banana peel on which Rahul and co could slip.

A series win for 'Men in Blue' would hardly win them any accolades, but a defeat would invite intense criticism. Thus, the hosts wouldn't mind if Sikandar Raza, Chakabva and Innocent Kaia repeat their batting heroics from the Bangladesh encounters, displaying to the world that the last series win was not a fluke.

Series objective
Gone are the days of the Flower brothers (Andy and Grant), Heath Streak, Neil Johnson, Murray Goodwin and Henry Olonga. It was a side that could take Mickey out of the opposition on good days. Like the country itself, Zimbabwe cricket has gone through upheaval over the last two decades, which has severely impacted its quality.

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Someone like 36-year-old Raza, 34-year-old skipper Chakabva or 34-year-old Donald Tiripano are sincere performers. However, they are unlikely to make any opposition feel threatened. India's tours of Zimbabwe usually are a kind of gift from 'big brother' to help a 'younger' acquire economic solidity. The TV and digital rights revenue from these three India matches will cover Zimbabwe cricket's more than half the costs for the year.

So, this would earn the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) a goodwill gesture. On the cricketing part, it would give the selectors a chance to analyse bench strength and jot down some names who will figure in the larger picture for the 2023 ICC World Cup in India.

Right now, Indian cricket possesses the such quality that it can field three white ball teams in three different continents at the same time. It is one such glorified 'A' series as many members will play in the home A series against New Zealand and Australia later this year.


Chahar and Kuldeep
Two bowlers looking to give their all are pacer Deepak Chahar, who is back after a six-month injury layoff, and chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, unhurriedly getting his amulet back. Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar has consolidated his place in the T20 set-up, but with his swing bowling in the Powerplay phase and the ability to hit big in the death, Chahar will look to make an impression. He is already on the standby list for the Asia Cup.

Another player who would fancy a debut would be Maharashtra's Rahul Tripathi, who has been a consistent IPL performer and maybe someone who stand-in head coach VVS Laxman could use in the middle-order at the expense of pacer Shardul Thakur. Overall, a 3-0 clean sweep is the order of the day, and any diversion would be evaluated as a below-par effort.

KL Rahul (c & wk), Shikhar Dhawan (vc), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shubman Gill, Deepak Hooda, Rahul Tripathi, Ishan Kishan (wk), Sanju Samson (wk), Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Avesh Khan, Prasidh Krishna, Mohd Siraj, Deepak Chahar, and Shahbaz Ahmed.
Zimbabwe: Regis Chakabva (c & wk), Ryan Burl, Tanaka Chivanga, Bradley Evans, Luke Jongwe, Innocent Kaia, Takudzwanashe Kaitano, Clive Madande (wk), Wessly Madhevere, Tadiwanashe Marumani, John Masara, Tony Munyonga, Richard Ngarava, Victor Nyauchi, Sikandar Raza, Milton Shumba and Donald Tiripano.

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