Team India is putting in the long hours in the nets ahead of their first ODI against Zimbabwe at Harare on Saturday to ensure that the 'inexperienced Boys in Blue' return home as 'winning Men in Blue'
Since the time they have been selected, the team touring Zimbabe for the limited overs series has been described in the media as second string and a lot more.
The young guns of the team are limited-overs specialists and have a lot to prove and will be hoping to shine on the international stage to consolidate their position in the national team.
We do not want to give too much attention to what opposition is saying, focus is inwards:Sanjay Bangar, India coach pic.twitter.com/wPKyVAUYvN— ANI (@ANI_news) June 10, 2016
With the experienced Mahendra Singh Dhoni leading the bunch, the youngsters are sure to turn to him for guidance.
The team, which kicks off their tour on Saturday with the first ODI at Harare, trained hard on Friday, which was being conducted by coach Sanjay Bangar.
BCCI tweeted a video of off-spinner Jayant Yadav bowling in the nets, suggesting that he may be in with a chance to make his ODI debut tomorrow. Jayant, with his restrictive off-spin, stands a better chance but will have to slog it out with seam bowling all-rounder Rishi Dhawan for a place in the XI.
Dhoni also turned his arm over in the nets and put in the long hours with the bat as well.
They will also be hoping to replicate their predecessors who have, in fact, effected back-to-back whitewashes 5-0 and 3-0 in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
The tour comprises three ODIs and three T20 Internationals starting June 11.
Over the years, the series in Zimbabwe has always featured limited-overs matches played post-IPL where the BCCI sends its second-string outfits to test the bench strength.
The squad of 15 comprises as many as five uncapped players (including KL Rahul, who is yet to make his limited-overs debut) but it has gained special significance because of Dhoni, who will be playing in the African nation after 11 long years.
The last time when Dhoni played in Zimbabwe back in 2005, his international career was barely six months old and a certain Sourav Ganguly was still in charge of the 'Men In Blue'.
While he may not be battling to save his captaincy yet but tours like the one about to start in Zimbabwe are the proverbial 'banana peel' for any top cricketer.
Team India's practice session ahead of 1st ODI,which is to be played tomorrow versus Zimbabwe, at Harare pic.twitter.com/x7zHAIWkIs— ANI (@ANI_news) June 10, 2016
If one has a look at the team, the gulf between Dhoni and the rest of the squad will stare at anyone who cares. While Dhoni has played a total of 275 ODIs, the rest of the squad cumulatively has 83 matches to their credit.
Also if one takes away Ambati Rayudu (31 matches) and Axar Patel (22)'s participation, the seven others have a total of 30 matches to their names.
More so, save for KL Rahul, none of the other youngsters in this team will be boarding the flight to West Indies for the Test series.
This brings one to Yadav, left-handed opener Faiz Fazal and right-handed middle-order batsman Mandeep Singh -- all decent domestic performers in their own rights. It will be interesting to see who among them can catch the skipper's attention and get their maiden India ODI cap.
Fazal being a specialist opener also can fancy his chances. Mandeep's fight is a tougher one as he would be competing with Kedar, Karun and Manish.
Some members of the selection committee have traveled with the team and were keeping a close eye on the lads.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain and wk), KL Rahul, Faiz Fazal, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Mandeep Singh, Rishi Dhawan, Jasprit Bumrah, Jayant Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jaydev Unadkat, Dhawal Kulkarni, Axar Patel.
Zimbabwe: Graeme Cremer (captain), Tendai Chatara, Chamu Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura, Tendai Chisoro, Craig Ervine, Neville Madziva, Timycen Maruma, Hamilton Masakadza, Wellington Masakadza, Peter Moor, Twanada Mupariwa, Richard
Mutumbami (wk), Taurai Muzarabani, Vusimuzi Sibanda, Sikandar Raza, Donald Tiripano, Sean Williams.
Match starts: 12:30 pm IST.