Make or break time for seven India stars in Zimbabwe
The upcoming tour of Zimbabwe is vital for the fringe players looking to cement a place in the senior India squad. Failure, says Harish Kotian, could well see them lose their places forever.
The upcoming One-Day International series against Zimbabwe is unlikely to interest even diehard fans of the game, coming as it does after a hectic season that saw India win the ICC Champions Trophy and tri-series in the West Indies. However, it is an opportunity of a lifetime for some new players in the squad.
The five-match series will not only give the lesser-known domestic stars in the squad a chance to impress the selectors, but also help them push for a permanent slot in the ODI team.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been rested after picking a hamstring injury in the West Indies and Virat Kohli will lead the team.
India’s bowling will wear a new look, as their four frontline bowlers -- Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin – are rested for the series, starting in Harare on July 24.
Thus, the tour is vital for the fringe players looking to cement a place in the senior India squad. Failure could well see them lose their places forever.
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One of the best batting talents to emerge from India in recent times, he is, sadly, labelled a ‘Test match specialist’.
Ironically, his good showing in Tests and ability to play big knocks in the longer version of the game have gone against him when it comes to ODIs and T20s.
But Pujara has proved that he is no slowcoach by his fluent batting during the Test series against Australia earlier this year. He scored 419 runs in the four Tests at an average of 83, with an equally impressive strike rate of 62.
He slammed 82 from 92 balls in the second innings of the fourth and final Test in Delhi on a difficult wicket despite batting with an injury. In the process, he proved that, on his day, he can put the best of bowlers to the sword.
The upcoming Zimbabwe tour is his golden opportunity to enlighten the selectors that his batting is not bound by any particular format.
Image: Cheteshwar Pujara
Photographs: Pal Pillai/Getty Images
He forced his way into the Indian team on the back of an impressive record in domestic cricket for Mumbai, but failed to make most of the opportunities he got at the international level.
Rahane played 16 ODIs since making his debut against England in 2011, scoring 404 runs, at an average of 25.
He started off well, with scores of 40 and 54 in his first two ODIs in England, but failed to maintain consistency.
He slammed 91 from 104 balls against England at Mohali in October 2011, but since then scored just 126 runs in eight innings before being dropped.
Considered a middle order batsman, he gets another opportunity. And what better way to seize it than score big against the lowly bowling attack of Zimbabwe.
Image: Cheteshwar Pujara
Photographs: Gareth Copley/Getty Images
Had he not joined the rebel Indian Cricket League, he could have well made his international debut by now.
He wasted two years in the ICL before accepting the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s amnesty in 2009.
Rayudu’s potential was never in doubt. When Mumbai Indians snapped him up immediately his career received a second lease of life.
The Hyderabad right-hander had a superb last season for Baroda, scoring 666 runs in the Ranji Trophy, at an average of 60, and hit 51 and 156 for Rest of India in the Irani Cup match against Mumbai in February.
Former India coach Greg Chappell rated Rayudu’s batting highly. Time is ripe for the 27-year-old to deliver.
Image: Ambati Rayudu
Photographs: Mark Kolbe-IPL 2010/IPL via Getty Images
He was fast-tracked into the Indian Test team at the age of 19, against South Africa, at Centurion, in December 2010. But the young left-arm pacer had a disastrous start in his first game, clobbered for 102 runs in 26 overs, without a wicket.
Unadkat didn’t lose heart and went about his task in domestic cricket for Saurashtra with consistent performances in the last couple of seasons. Last season, he took 26 wickets in seven matches, at an average of 27, despite playing most of the games on the flat tracks in Rajkot.
What caught everyone’s attention was his superb bowling for Royal Challengers Bangalore in this year’s IPL. He took 13 wickets in 13 games and finished as the joint second highest-wicket taker for RCB. It proved crucial in the selectors giving him another chance at the top level.
Image: Jaydev Unadkat
Consistent performances with the ball in IPL 6 catapulted Mohit Sharma from relative obscurity to a household name in Chennai.
The right-arm pacer became a hero for his ability to deliver consistently in Powerplay overs for Chennai Super Kings. He finished the tournament with 20 wickets, at an astonishing average of 16 and an impressive economy rate of 6.43.
Mohit was picked by CSK on the basis of his consistent performances for Haryana (with 44 wickets in 11 games).
He will be looking to continue his good form in Zimbabwe and return with a bagful of wickets.
Image: Mohit Sharma
Come July 24 and the whole of Jammu and Kashmir will be glued to their television sets to watch their very own Parveez Rasool debut for India.
It will be a big breakthrough moment for the off-spinner, who replaced Ravichandran Ashwin, as he will be the first cricketer from J&K to play international cricket.
Following an impressive Ranji Trophy season, Rasool caught everyone’s fancy when he took seven wickets for India against the Australians in a tour match in Delhi.
He was picked by Pune Warriors for IPL 6, but played just two just matches in the entire tournament.
India’s legendary spinner Bishen Singh Bedi rates him highly; he believes he has it in him to make it big in international cricket.
With Ashwin rested and Harbhajan Singh still keen to make a comeback, the Zimbabwe ODIs could perhaps be the first and last chance for Rasool to impress.
Image: Parveez Rasool
Also known as Shami Ahmed, he made a sensational start to international cricket. He registered figures of 9-4-23-1 in his first ODI, against Pakistan in Delhi, in January.
That match saw him become the first Indian to bowl four maidens or more on debut.
Shami can be a handful with the new ball. He has the ability to bowl with control and also gets enough movement early on. But after the early promise, he has withered down. His figures now read: four wickets in six matches, at an average of 60.
In the recently-concluded tri-series in the West Indies, he got a game against Sri Lanka, but was hit for 68 runs.
Irfan Pathan’s recent injury forced the selectors to persist with him for the Zimbabwe tour as they attempt to give fringe players a chance to prove themselves.
Shami needs to do really well, else he could be shown the door.
Image: Mohammed Shami