Having thrashed Zimbabwe 3-0 in the one-day series, India will be looking to continue their great form as the T20s begin. The hosts were no match for India as they were embarrassed by nine, eight and ten wickets respectively in the three ODIs. So poor were Zimbabwe in the one-day series, they can only hope for significant improvements from here. But, merely hoping will not be enough. The players need to find a way where they are somewhat competitive out in the middle. Winning is not even in the question. South African greats Lance Klusener and Makhaya Ntini who are part of the coaching staff have their work cut out.
India arrived in Zimbabwe with a second-string squad, but their performance undoubtedly has been first grade. Tours to Zimbabwe have given opportunities to youngsters to blossom in the past. This series has been no different so far. Lokesh Rahul has been the most impressive of all the new men with runs in every match, including a hundred on debut. He will be gearing up to carry on the great work in the T20s as well. The fact that he is coming off a successful IPL should enhance his confidence. Rahul would be well aware that the opportunities will be limited when Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan come back, so he will be looking to make best use of this opportunity.
Ambati Rayudu has also done well in the games that he has played. Even though he has not been a permanent member of the squad, he mostly gets a look in when India play Zimbabwe, and he rarely fails. This series has been no different. Thanks to his success against Zimbabwe, Rayudu has an ODI average on par with MS Dhoni. And, while that is grossly misleading, it is really no fault of Rayudu. India must try to play him more against the bigger nations. Remember, he has a one-day hundred against Sri Lanka, so he is no minnow basher. The team will also be pleased with the fact that Faiz Fazal succeeded on debut.
If there was one issue with India's performance in the ODIs, it was a rather ironic one. They batted so well in the three games that the middle didn't even get a look in. Karun Nair failed in the first game as opener, but Rayudu and Rahul stuck it out. Manish Pandey hardly got a few deliveries to face, and skipper Dhoni hasn't even put on his batting gloves so far. In a 20 overs game, the chances of them getting a look in is even sparse, but the likes of Pandey, Rishi Dhawan and Mandeep Singh, in particular would like to get a look in, if they are selected in the playing eleven. The way the top order is performing, that looks tough.
India's bowlers will also be keen to take their ODI success into the T20s. From the pacers to the spinners, all of them have impressed. Jasprit Bumrah has been the best of the lot, with wickets coming his way rather frequently. Some critics argue he wouldn't last long with his awkward action, but that debate is for another day. Dhawal Kulkarni has done no harm to his reputation as a smart bowler with some good performances while Barinder Sran has been effective too. In the spin bowling department, Yuzvendra Chahal has proved too good for the Zimbabweans while Axar Patel is at last finding that international cricket isn't that tough.
--By A Cricket Analyst