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Ind vs Zim: 5 Indians who need to prove their mettle against Zimbabwe

Rohan Raj | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST

After a power-packed Indian Premier League (IPL) season, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) fielded the second-string outfit against a lowly-ranked Zimbabwe for three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and three Twenty20s (T20s) starting from 11 June in Harare.

The Indian team enjoys a formidable record against Zimbabwe with back-to-back whitewashes 5-0 and 3-0 in 2013 and 2015 respectively. However, a spirited Graeme Cremer side will surely be eager to upset the visitors in the series.

In what appears to be another test of India's bench strength, the inexperienced Dhoni brigade comprises as many as five uncapped players. On the other hand, the Indian skipper himself will be playing in the African nation after a hiatus of 11 years.

As far as the experience is concerned, the gulf between Dhoni and the rest of the Indian squad stands out for obvious reasons. While Dhoni has played a total of 275 ODIs so far, the rest of the squad cumulatively has 83 matches to their credit.

Consistency might have been a long-standing problem for Zimbabwe but the availability of experienced campaigners including Elton Chigumbura, Hamilton Masakadza, Sikandar Raza, Craig Ervine and Sean Williams will undoubtedly boost their chances.

Here's a look at five Indian players who'll be looking to prove a point on the Zimbabwe tour:

MS Dhoni

The last time Dhoni played in Zimbabwe back in 2005, his international career was just six months old and a dominant Sourav Ganguly was in charge of the Indian team. But, a lot has changed in these 11 years.

Dhoni has retired from Test cricket, while the rapid rise of Virat Kohli following his Bradmanesque form in recent months has started to threaten MSD's captaincy. The tour of Zimbabwe will undoubtedly serve as the proverbial 'banana peel' for a top cricketer like Dhoni.

A series win in Zimbabwe might not be as feted as the ones against stronger opposition, but an unexpected result will surely dent Dhoni's reputation as captain. That is exactly why Dhoni will be looking to come good, not just as captain, but also with the bat to silence his detractors.

KL Rahul

The young wicket-keeper batsman has been looked upon as a potential replacement for MS Dhoni. The Karnataka player, a regular face in India's Test squad now, is likely to make his debut in limited-overs cricket during the tour.

A highly rated opening batsman in India's next generation, Rahul comes to Zimbabwe on the back of a successful IPL season. The right-hander slammed four 50s and scored 397 runs in 14 games for Royal Challengers Bangalore this year.

The fact that none of the youngsters in the Indian squad will be boarding the flight to West Indies for the Test series will surely encourage him to prove his mettle against Zimbabwe.

Manish Pandey

The 26-year-old explosive batsman has played four ODIs for India. He also made his T20Is debut during India's tour of Zimbabwe in 2015 after rising through the ranks in the domestic circuit.

His breakout international innings came in Sydney when he smashed his maiden ODI 100 to help India gun down Australia's 330 to prevent a whitewash in January earlier this year. He was also brought in as a replacement for Yuvraj Singh in India's 2016 World T20 semi-final against West Indies, but didn't get an opportunity to bat.

Pandey, who scored 248 runs for Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL this year, will be looking to use the opportunity to stake claim to Suresh Raina's place in the Indian middle-order as part of the regular team.

Yuzvendra Chahal

The 25-year-old leg-spinner was one of the key contributors in RCB's journey to the IPL final this year. The attacking bowler took 21 wickets and finished the tournament as the second-highest wicket-taker, only behind Bhuvneshwar Kumar who took 23 wickets.

Chahal boasts a big leg-break delivery, while his deceiving googly has troubled some of the best batsmen in the world. His performance on the Zimbabwe tour will be closely monitored as Amit Mishra has not exactly been favoured in the shorter versions.

Jasprit Bumrah

The 22-year-old speedster was fast-tracked to the regular team during India's tour of Australia earlier this year. The right-arm bowler took two wickets on his ODI debut and another six during the three T20Is during the Australian tour.

His ability to bowl consistent yorkers in the death overs also made him Dhoni's 'go to' bowler in limited-overs cricket. Bumrah's sling-arm action and the peculiar release point of his deliveries has made him hard to pick by the opposition batsmen.

The Gujarat player has so far bowled in tandem and flourished alongside the experienced Ashish Nehra. However, the Zimbabwe tour presents him an opportunity to prove his worth as a strike-bowler and shoulder the responsibility of leading the attack.

First published: 11 June 2016, 2:03 IST
Rohan Raj @ro4an_raj

After a poor stint in gully-cricket quashed his hopes of turning pro, Rohan moved away from the playing field and began criticising those who were still on it. Football eases his mind and watching City paint Manchester blue is his elusive dream. When not talking, thinking or dreaming about sports, Rohan can be found listening to EDM or watching movies. A sports correspondent at Catch News, he has previously worked with Hindustan Times, Daily Bhaskar and India Today.