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India returns to a comfortable hunting ground with Rahul in the spotlight

It’s not surprising that even a 50-over series has T20 overtones now that the T20 World Cup is less than two months away. For India, the most significant is KL Rahul’s return to the team. After missing time due to surgery on his groyne and rehabilitation, as well as Covid-19, Rahul will play in his first competitive cricket match since May’s IPL eliminator on Thursday. The India skipper should have enough of playing time in all three matches at a stadium where he earned his first ODI century in 2016.

Deepak Chahar, another player who could benefit from playing time, is trying to convince the Indian think-tank to keep him in the team’s plans for the T20 World Cup despite his return from an even longer injury hiatus. Over the next five days, he will have several opportunities to demonstrate his match readiness in 10-over periods. India has only selected three quicks for their core Asia Cup squad, thus he has already made it (Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Arshdeep Singh and Avesh Khan).

Zimbabwe may also be thinking ahead to the T20 World Cup, where they hope to make it all the way to the Super 12s. They may also be looking forward to the opportunity to see how they fare against more formidable competition in the 50-over format.

Having won the series against Bangladesh should give them the confidence boost they need going into this series, but they will need significant improvement from the top-order to break their long losing streak against India in this stadium. The middle order, led by Sikandar Raza and Regis Chakabva, was crucial to their two wins against Bangladesh this month (62 for 3 and 49 for 4). There was a major loss when the top order failed for the third time. Even though there is a huge quality gap between the two teams, if Zimbabwe can quickly fix their early batting problems, they will be much more competitive against a team like India.

When: Monday, August 18 at 9:15 a.m. PT (12:45 p.m. IST)

1st One-Day International, Harare Sports Club, Zimbabwe vs. India

It has been shown in recent one-day internationals between Zimbabwe and Bangladesh that Harare is favourable to batting. Even Shikhar Dhawan implied as much, saying he expects the players to be provided with “excellent batting pitches.”

Updates from the Squad:

India’s Shubman Gill impressed against the West Indies last month, so he’ll likely keep his opening berth. The returning KL Rahul, meanwhile, may bat third or fourth. Now that Deepak Chahar has recovered from his injury, he will likely play at some point during this series.

Shubman Gill, Shikhar Dhawan, Rahul Tripathi, KL Rahul, Sanju Samson, Deepak Hooda, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav/Shahbaz Ahmed, Avesh Khan, Mohammed Siraj/Deepak Chahar, and Kuldeep Nehra make up the most likely XI.

Zimbabwe: The home side is expected to give the same top-order another shot after they performed well and helped Raza and Chakabva beat Bangladesh in the second ODI 10 days ago.

Tadiwanashe Marumani, Takudzwanashe Kaitano, Innocent Kaia, Wesley Madhevere, Sikandar Raza, Regis Chakabva (c), Tony Munyonga, Luke Jongwe, Brad Evans, Victor Nyauchi, Tanaka Chivanga make up the most likely XI.

Do You Realize:

In 9 One-Day Internationals this year, Sikandar Raza has made two fifty-plus scores and two hundred-plus scores. Earlier this month in an ODI series against Bangladesh, he scored 252 runs and took 5 wickets.

There has been a streak of nine victories for India in one-day internationals at this stadium, starting in July 2013.

In Their Own Words:

“The return of KL to the team is fantastic news. His upcoming performance at the Asia Cup, as one of the most important members of the Indian team, bodes well. This trip will undoubtedly be educational for him.” Dhawan, Shikhar

“In my opinion, India presents a formidable obstacle for any team, not only Zimbabwe. They’re batting and bowling well. They must be short a few players from their usual squad because they aren’t all here. Though I do see potential, I must say that we aren’t very concerned about India at this time. All of us are concerned with our own efficiency and with whether or not we are following the appropriate procedures. We have the potential to cause problems for the Indian team on any given day.” Lance Klusener

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