ZIM v IND 2024, ZIM vs IND 1st T20I Match Preview

Big picture – Opportunities galore

The new T20 World Cup champions were given a rousing welcome on their return home but even as the country celebrates their history-makers, one eye turns towards the future.

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Fifteen of India’s promising colts – captained by Shubman Gill – are in Zimbabwe now laying the groundwork for the time that they too may one day experience: the high of an open-top bus parade with fans as far as the eye can see serenading them.

There are spots up for grabs. Two of them, in particular, which Gill, Abhishek Sharma and Ruturaj Gaikwad will be trying to make their own. Rinku Singh was there in Barbados but only as reserve. He’ll want to fix that. Riyan Parag is starting to make good on his promise. Washington Sundar is 24 and injury-free with India potentially needing a new spin-bowling allrounder in their first-choice XI.

Zimbabwe will see opportunity too, not least in upsetting the newly-minted champions after being unable to make the World Cup. Hosting an India series brings an influx of money and no shortage of eyeballs, some of whom might be on the lookout for skills that can translate to success in the various franchise tournaments happening around the world. These days, a cricket match is not just a chance to bring glory to the team.

Form guide

Zimbabwe WLLLL (last five completed T20Is, most recent first)

In the spotlight – Shubman Gill and Sikandar Raza

Shubman Gill is in the middle of a bit of a blip. His first real brush with captaincy, through April and May, didn’t go as planned with Gujarat Titans finishing eighth out of ten teams in IPL 2024. His time with India at the T20 World Cup in June was very brief but now in July he finds himself with the power to do what he likes, at least for the course of these five matches. Will he bat like India want their players to, with aggression from the first ball, or will he do something different?

Zimbabwe tripped up, badly, in the Africa T20 World Cup qualifiers in November 2023. Sikandar Raza was captain. They hosted Ireland in December, but after an excellent all-round contribution in a one-wicket victory, he was suspended from the rest of the series due to an on-field altercation. Then Raza lost his form, with four single-digit scores in six T20I innings, but his last one was a match-winning half-century against Bangladesh. He’s also produced good showings for Northamptonshire in the Vitality Blast (206 runs in eight innings at a strike rate of 153). Raza’s back on the up and he wants his team to be as well.

Team news – Count the debuts

This India squad is very much a work in progress so the XIs that come out of it might not have all their bases covered. The batting, for example, might only go down as far as No. 7 which certainly does not encourage the hit-every-ball-out-of-the-park philosophy they are trying to perfect. Also, the players themselves haven’t proven themselves at this level. Then again, they haven’t been exposed to it all that often either. Look out for debuts. There could be four or five. Gill confirmed Abhishek Sharma will open the batting alongside him.

India (probable): 1 Shubman Gill (capt), 2 Abhishek Sharma, 3 Ruturaj Gaikwad, 4 Riyan Parag, 5 Rinku Singh, 6 Dhruv Jurel/Jitesh Sharma (wk), 7 Washington Sundar, 8 Ravi Bishnoi, 9 Avesh Khan, 10 Tushar Deshpande, 11 Khaleel Ahmed

Zimbabwe are searching for new talent themselves. Some of their better-known players like Sean Williams and Craig Ervine weren’t considered for this series and Ryan Burl has been dropped. Wessly Madhevere and Brandon Mavuta, though, are back in contention after serving out four-month suspensions for drug use.

Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Brian Bennett, 2 Tadiwanashe Marumani, 3 Sikandar Raza (capt), 4 Johnathan Campbell, 5 Antum Naqvi, 6 Clive Madande (wk), 7 Wessly Madhevere, 8 Luke Jongwe, 9 Faraz Akram, 10 Wellington Masakadza, 11 Blessing Muzarabani

Pitch and conditions – Runs at a premium

This will be Harare’s first T20I of the year. First-innings totals in the recent past have been a bit middling, with only five of the last 12, going past 150. In those last 12 matches, spinners (69 wickets at 19.71 and economy rate of 6.6) have done better than the fast bowlers (80 wickets at 25.92 and an economy rate of 7.82). There is no threat of rain with temperatures in the mid-20C.

Stats and trivia

  • India have faced Zimbabwe in only eight T20Is over the course of 14 years. They’ve won six and lost two.
  • Raza needs 53 more to become the first Zimbabwean to score 2000 runs in T20Is.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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