India's tour of Zimbabwe has basically been an opportunity for some of the domestic players to exhibit their talent at the international level. The series was also significant in the sense that India had gone down to Bangladesh in the previous series, and an ODI series loss against Zimbabwe would have been a major embarrassment, even considering the fact that they were playing with a second string side. And, although the Indians weren't all that convincing during the course of the three matches, they did enough to clinch the series 3-0, aided by the fact that Zimbabwe were not consistent in building pressure.
A lot of players who were given opportunities in the first two matches failed to deliver. The third ODI was possibly also the final chance for them to make a mark. Kedar Jadhav was among this list. He hadn't looked in any kind of good touch during the first two games. But, he got an opportunity for a third time as well, and this time did not waste the same. Jadhav played a quality knock under pressure to help India whitewash Zimbabwe in their own backyard. Although the quality of the bowling wasn't of the highest order, these were the same bowlers who had troubled India's top order. So Jadhav had to bat well.
The fact that, unlike batsmen in the previous two matches, Jadhav did not give his wicket away after crossing the half-century mark was an added advantage for India. It is not easy getting a hundred batting in the middle order, but Jadhav managed the same, in spite of the fact that he played attacking shots towards the end. Manish Pandey also did very well to grab his chance, a much deserved one, hitting a half-century on debut. Pandey has been on the brink of India debut for a while and, on Tuesday, proved why he is rated so highly in Indian cricket. Both Jadhav and Pandey batted with caution at the start, and flourished towards the end.
India's bowling in the third ODI was also impressive. Bhuvneshwar Kumar stood out for the second game in a row. Although this time, he was unlucky not to get any wickets, he tight six over spell ensured Zimbabwe did not get off to a flying start. The rest did the job of claiming the wickets. Harbhajan Singh added to his confidence by claiming a couple of wickets, and not leaking too many runs. Axar Patel also chipped in with crucial wickets. But, it was once again Stuart Binny, who surprised with his bowling success. His three wickets, to go with his cameo, once again proved he's a decent all-rounder.
In spite of the impressive 3-0 scorecard, it wasn't all positive for India in the series. The ODI matches were very important for Robin Uthappa, but although he made 31 in the third game, it was a highly disappointing effort overall. He needed to score more runs over the course of the three games. Same is the case with Manoj Tiwary. In the past, he has been unlucky with injuries at the wrong time. But, he did not utilise his chance on this occasion. On the contrary, he put up a listless batting effort on Tuesday. The top and middle order batting was also disappointing, leaving apart the second game.
India still have some work to do as they head into the T20s.
-- By A Cricket Analyst