Harare: As India gears up for the first of the three-match One-Day International (ODI) series against Zimbabwe here on Saturday, it will be a new challenge for Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who will lead a new-look side with five uncapped players.
Dhoni, who last played in Zimbabwe in 2005, when he had just stepped into the international arena, will be without his familiar weapons during this tour. There are a number of players in this side with whom he has not played much cricket, and therefore it will be interesting to see how the Ranchi stumper handles the youngsters.
Over the years, the Zimbabwe tour has featured limited-overs matches played after the Indian Premier League (IPL), where a second-string side is sent to test India’s bench strength. Despite that the visitors have managed to hand back-to-back whitewashes 5-0 and 3-0 in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
Apart from Dhoni’s 275 ODI games, Ambati Rayudu (31), Axar Patel (22) are the ones to have played the most in the squad with the rest having a total of 30 matches to their names.
Impressive performances in the IPL has earned Test opener Lokesh Rahul his maiden ODI call-up while promising batsman Karun Nair and Haryana spinners Jayant Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal will be aiming for a decent start to their international careers.
Apart from the experience of Dhoni and Rayudu, the batting line-up boasts of Rahul, Nair, Mandeep Singh, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav and Faiz Fazal while the bowling unit will be led by Jasprit Bumrah and Dhawal Kulkarni.
The left-arm duo of Barinder Sran and Jaydev Unadkat along with bowling all-rounder Rishi Dhawan also provide good back-up options for Dhoni while the spin department will be handled by Patel, Yadav and Chahal.
Meanwhile, the hosts will have a new captain in the form of leg-spinner Graeme Cremer, who was appointed on an interim basis. Cremer took over from Hamilton Masakadza, who had an awful time with his side during the ICC World T20 2016 in India earlier this year.
Going into the series, Zimbabwe received a jolt after pacer Tinashe Panyangara was ruled out with a back injury but the hosts can bank on the experience of the likes of Masakadza, Craig Ervine, Sean Williams, Elton Chigumbura and Vusimuzi Sibanda.
India: MS Dhoni (Captain & wk), Lokesh Rahul, Faiz Fazal, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair, Ambati Rayudu, Mandeep Singh, Kedar Jadhav, Rishi Dhawan, Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jayant Yadav, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jasprit Bumrah, Barinder Sran, Jaydev Unadkat.
Zimbabwe: Graeme Cremer (Captain), Richmond Mutumbami, Taurai Muzarabani, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Peter Joseph Moor, Elton Chigumbura, Vusimuzi Sibanda, Tawanda Mupariwa, Sean Williams, Sikandar Raza Butt, Neville Madziva, Donald Tiripano, Timycen Maruma, Wellington Maskadza, Tendai Chisoro, Hamilton Masakadza, Tendai Chatara, Craig Ervine.