With two defeats in three games in the Zimbabwe tri-series, I am sure the Indian players will be busy with the calculators as they left themselves with only a mathematical possibility of making the final. The loss to Zimbabwe last night sent out warnings to the Indian administrators who have a lot to answer for the latest debacle.
It is another matter that India might yet make a backdoor entry into the final should they beat Sri Lanka by a huge margin and the islanders do the same to Zimbabwe so as to bring the Net Run Rate into consideration. Such a scenario notwithstanding, the twin defeats to the hosts cannot be glossed over and dismissed as “one of those things”.
The fact is that there is little to rejoice over the Indian “second string” that seems to be caught in a no-man’s land between two formats of the game.
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It is apparent that the Indian players, barring a couple, are still in the IPL mode and haven’t really made a switch to the longer format of 50-50. As such, they appear rather confused about the approach they should adopt.
The biggest failing has been the opening where both Vijay and Karthik have not come to grips with their collective role to provide good starts. In the bargain, the pressure has always been on the middle-order that, with the exception of Rohit Sharma, has been an abject failure.
To make matters worse, the bowling, overall, has been toothless and Zimbabwe twice exposed the facility of the Indian attack that struggled to make the crucial breakthroughs. The only bright spot was the game against Sri Lanka who will now be thirsting for revenge when they take on the Indians next on the morrow at the same venue.
From the looks of it, the key Indian players appear rather jaded, lacking in motivation and intensity, all of which they have left back home following the six-week IPL and the T20 World Cup.
As I had pointed out in one of my columns last month, the current tri-series carries little value and from India’s point of view, our players could have done with a break ahead of the Asia Cup starting later this month.
The next few months are going to be hectic with the Indians scheduled for a long tour of Sri Lanka for the Asia Cup, a three-Test series against the hosts and a tri-series involving New Zealand. In the event, it was imperative that the players were given sufficient time for rest and recuperation as quite a few of them are carrying injuries and niggles.
The national selectors might claim that they have rested the “senior players”, but what about the likes of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina and Yusuf Pathan? They too have played as much cricket as those rested, travelled as much and been under pressure for as long.
Any surprise then that barring Rohit, the others flopped in Zimbabwe? After all, the five are expected to be in the national side for the tour of Sri Lanka or for at least part of the trip.
India in Zimbabwe
In Zimbabwe, skipper Raina is obviously feeling the heat. He has admitted that the team did not bat well, but one would like to know why. It is not as if we have witnessed anything extraordinary from Zimbabwe. On the contrary, the minnows played within their limitations and were the deserving winners considering their rather limited bowling resources.
Much like Bangladesh in England at the moment, Zimbabwe showed plenty of spunk to eyeball the more experienced Indians and better still, shoot them down with their own weapon – spin. Thus, Zimbabwe have done everything to deserve a place in the final and I wouldn’t be surprised if they even go all the way to win the series.
As for India, they need to pick up the maximum points of five against Sri Lanka in their last fixture to get up to nine and then await the outcome of the Sri Lanka-Zimbabwe game. Surely, testing times ahead for Raina’s boys and it is anybody’s guess whether they can regroup for a successful final assault.