Indian players' report card after Zimbabwe triumph

New Delhi,July 20: In his first captaincy assignment, Rahane the batsman could have been a bit more promising; especially after the prowess he's displayed in Tests.

Scores of 34 off 49, 63 off 83 and 33 off 32 may have made for decent numbers for a rookie, but not Rahane, whose low strike-rate and ability to rotate strike has come under the scanner.

He looked set on more than one occasion, but was eventually left contemplating thoughts of starts he couldn't capitalise on.

In the first ODI, he gave catching practice to Hamilton Masakadza in the 18th over, and once he surpassed the 50-run mark in the second ODI and put on a 112-run stand with Murali Vijay, the Indian skipper slowed down, which hampered India's impetus in the middle overs.

A little more fluency during his knocks and it could have helped him be in MS Dhoni's good books. Not much can be questioned about his captaincy, since the results speak for themselves. 

But rest assured, sterner tests await if Rahane is the one BCCI is honing to be India's next leader.

Playing his first ODI in two years, Murali Vijay's only substantial knock came in the second ODI, where his 72, along with Rahane's half-century formed a strong base for India. His monk-like demeanour was on full display during the innings - he consumed 95 balls with just one four and a couple of sixes.

Vijay however, still has some catching to do. Even though he seemed to time the ball well, couldn't quite get off the blocks. The feet too didn't quite move as well as they do in the longer format, and he was, at times, early into his drives. His second-most fluent innings was the first T20, where he raced to 34 off 19 and provided India with a blazing start. He even chipped in with a wicket off his very first ball of a match. So all in all, Vijay was good, but could have been better considering he's faced fared rather nicely against bowlers from England and Australia.

Robin Uthappa 6/10

The Karnataka batsman was highly fascinated by the idea of getting to play a whole series, but when an entire tour is just five matches long, the chances aren't many. Uthappa endured a duck in his very first game and followed it with a unimpressive 13 in the next.

But he was able to find some of his bearings in the next three innings. The 31 in the final ODI allowed India some respite after they were 'stuck' against some tight bowling from the Zimbabwe medium-pacers. He held one end and ensured that India, despite crawling, did not lose any further wicket after quick dismissals of their openers.

He gave his side hope during their chase in the second T20I with a 25-ball 42 which included nine boundaries, but lack of support from the other end couldn't quite finish what he started. Besides, his keeping too showed improvement that the last time barring a few small faults here and there.

Manoj Tiwary 2/10

In all probability, Tiwary may have played his last international game for India. To simply put it he was woeful in the three opportunities he got in the ODI series. Scores of 2, 22 and 10 are unacceptable, let alone against Zimbabwe, when you're aware this could be your last chance at recognition. The painstaking 33-ball 10 could well be the final nail in the coffin for the Bengal batsman. Whatever happened to all those sessions with VVS Laxman.

Ambati Rayudu 8/10

Rayudu took a further step towards cementing a place in the Indian side. His unbeaten 124 in the first ODI gave India a respectable total before Zimbabwe fell short of the target by four runs. The strike-rate almost touched 100 and it was remarkable to see him pace his innings. He scored 41 in the second before injuring himself, which would cut short his tour.

Kedar Jadhav 7/10

Jadhav was the one big positive to have come out of the series. One can't read much into a low-key series against Zimbabwe, but Jadhav's unbeaten century overshadowed the other four failures he endured. The scenario: India were 82 for 4 and were struggling with the scoring rate before Jadhav and Manish Pandey took center-stage. Although he was slow to begin with, Jadhav became the aggressor once his partner departed.

He was aided by Zimbabwe skipper Elton Chigumbura, who spilled a sitter in the 41st over. After reaching his fifty off 67 balls, Jadhav launched an all-out assault before eventually reaching the landmark with a six in the final over. One more productive knock would have made the tour more memorable, but as mentioned above, the impact of that innings was more than his remaining three innings combined.

Manish Pandey 7/10

When you've waited for a debut as long as Pandey has, things ought to get frustrating. However, it wasn't the case with the Karnataka batsman, for he, only in his debut match, came up with an innings that played an integral role in India's win. He became the 12th Indian player to record a half-century on debut, and along with Jadhav, helped India revive the innings with a 144-run association.

At times, his approach looked dour, even dull at various points during their partnership, but the reasoning behind it was sound. Pandey initiated the assault with a straight six off Masakadza in the 28th over, and brought up his maiden half-century off 67 balls. He eventually holed out to Sikander Raza for 71, but the damage was done by then. His contribution in the T20s were 19 and 0 - which shows he's slotted for more challenges down the road.

Sanju Samson 4/10

Coming in as a replacement for Rayudu, India opted to give young Sanju Samson a go in the final game of the tour. And when he walked out to bat, his side was struggling at 69 for 5, chasing 146 to win. The Kerala batsman had no choice but to rebuild the innings, which he attempted with a 24-ball 19. However, he looked a bit under pressure, not able to lift the run-rate as he would have wanted to. But is the fault really his.The batsmen above him had no contribution except Uthappa, and there weren't many left to come after him. What looked like a promising small stay may have been even better with a bit of a help.

Stuart Binny 7/10

Binny was able to polish his allrounder skills during the five matches he played during the tour. Even though he didn't open the bowling this time around, Binny was more than effective with the ball, picking up 10 wickets. His 3 for 55 during the third ODI triggered a Zimbabwe collapse in which they lost five wickets for 25 runs. And his batting? A 76-ball 77 took the Zimbabwe bowlers to the cleaners during the opening game. Binny opened his shoulders and trod past his fifty off 63 balls. In the last over, he cracked three fours and a six as India finished with 51 in the last five overs. Just the tonic he needed to fit into India's ODI plans.

Axar Patel 8/10

Axar Patel hasn't quite been the same bowler we came to know in the ODI series against West Indies and Sri Lanka late last year. His form dropped remarkably, a reason why Harbhajan Singh was assigned the responsibility of leading the spin department. But the Gujarat bowler put in an improved performance with nine wickets. The loop was back and the line he operated on kept the leash tight on the Zimbabwe batsmen. Axar was one of India's five debutants in the first T20 and he produces the third-best by an Indian bowler on debut (3 for 17), and joint fourth-best by an Indian spinner in any T20I. If India are indeed to look ahead into the future, Axar forms a crucial cog in their wheel.

Harbhajan Singh 7/10

Harbhajan once again restored faith in the selectors with four wickets in equal number of matches. Even though it may not be the best of figures by his standards, his bowling had the same flair as it did during the IPL. Flight, variation and not giving the batsmen anything to go after. These elements summed up Harbhajan's tour. He was appointed to lead India's spin department and the offspinner did not disappoint.

Maybe the selectors were right after all. He may indeed have something left to serve to Indian cricket. The BCCI might reward him with another series down the line.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar 9/10

The true workhorse that he is, Bhuvneshwar's performance was clinical with seven wickets. Even though he looked tired, he was able to baffle the opposition by swinging the ball both ways. His sublime 4 for 33 in the second ODI fetched him the Man-of-the-Match award, and even though he went wicketless in the next game, he conceded just 12 runs off six overs. If such an outing is any hint, one can only imagine how a fully-rested Bhuvneshwar will fare.

Dhawal Kulkarni 3/10

Kulkarni was dropped after the first two ODIs after finishing with 1/60 and 1/39. A bit harsh maybe. Perhaps the team management believed Mohit Sharma was a better option to partner Bhuvneshwar. Kulkarni's inexperience and his wayward line and length in both matches were indications that he still has some work to do in the nets. Also, on slowe deteriorating pitches, Mohit's variations could have come in handy. Still some way to go for the Mumbai medium-pacer.

Mohit Sharma 7/10

With five wickets in three games, two of which were T20s, Mohit showed exactly why he is a almost-guaranteed inclusion in the playing eleven. Brought in as Kulkarni's replacement, Mohit's cutters on slow Harare tracks caused the Zimbabwe players a whole lot of trouble. His 2 for 28 was instrumental in India restricting Zimbabwe to 145, even though the visitors fell short by 10 runs

Sandeep Sharma 2/10

Sandeep conceded a six off his first legitimate delivery in T20Is, becoming the 10th bowler to do so. As expected, he was wayward and off the mark and lacked the swing he's so talked about. In the two T20s, he gave away 73 runs for one wicket in seven overs. Still early days, but he'll only continue to grow in the company of Bhuvneshwar and the rest of the bowlers.

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