"If there was a tomato tree outside I would have hanged myself in that tomato tree.”
One would have to have one’s expectations shattered in a rather cruel way to make such a statement, and one would not believe it to be coming from someone like Makhaya Ntini.
The South African pace legend, who is currently coaching a bottom-of-the-pile Zimbabwean side for the India series, is passionate about his job as well as his team. However, it must be aggravating for him to see his side — a full-strength one, mind you — to fail so miserably against a second-string Indian side.
Zimbabwe team looked as if they had learned from their mistakes in the first ODI when the pair of Vusi Sibanda and Sikandar Raza seemed to have lifted their side out of a messy position of 39/3, guiding them past the 100-run mark without losing any further wickets. A score in excess of 200, a competitive one by Harare standards, beckoned as Sibanda got to his half-century.
However, all it took was nine deliveries from rookie Indian leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, and the Zimbabweans tumbled down the slope, collapsing from a relatively comfortable position of 106/3 to 126 all out. Their batting fragility once again brutally exposed, there was little that they could do to prevent a one-sided finish thereafter.
There were glitches in the Indian batting performance as well, with both KL Rahul and Karun Nair getting dropped in the early stages of their innings, before they eventually romped off towards the target with more than 23 overs to spare.
In the end, it turned out to be yet another drab game, both for the players as well as for the visitors. For MS Dhoni, the only takeaway was the fact that the other batsmen in the side weren’t getting enough chances to bat. For a shaken Zimbabwean skipper Graeme Cremer, there were little ways in which he could express himself at the post-match presentation ceremony. Words, it seems, would be difficult to gather in light of such a devastating defeat.
With the series already clinched 2-0, the Indians might as well just stage a walk-over in the remaining fixture of the series if they are to let their struggling opponents win. No offence to the Zimbabweans, but the way they’ve gone about business in recent times, they need a major overhaul in their cricket structure if they are to relive the glory days of the yore once again.
There were a few instances in the second game worthy of discussion, here are the top talking points from the second ODI:
The Zimbabwe fight-back
At 39 for the loss of three wickets, it seemed as if the India pace unit would go a step further on cold Monday morning, and bowl the opponents out for less than 100.
However, the Sibanda-Raza pair put up the first real fight-back from the Zimbabwean camp as they defied the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Dhawal Kulkarni, and went for runs against the spinners. Sibanda was hard on Chahal in particular during the latter’s initial overs, and it seemed as if the pair would lift to a competitive score, one that is defendable on the pitch.
Chahal’s announces his arrival
Yuzvendra Chahal had been one of the gems discovered in the recently-concluded IPL. Playing for the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), a side which boasted of the most powerful batting unit, Chahal produced constant consistent performances as RCB’s struggling bowling unit suddenly began to rise, and the Virat Kohli-led side marched to the final.
Having earned his maiden call-up into the Indian side, Chahal got the opportunity to play under Dhoni’s leadership. While he got his maiden international wicket in the previous game by dismissing wicketkeeper-batsman Richmond Mutumbami, he was yet to shine internationally, which he did on Monday.
He broke the dangerous-looking 67-run stand between Sibanda and Raza, by inducing the latter to go for a big hit, and getting caught at long-on in the process. Elton Chigumbura, the top-scorer for Zimbabwe in the first match, was trapped lbw off the very first ball he faced, while the wily leg-spinner ended Sibanda’s innings at 53 from 69 balls in the next over.
The hosts lost three wickets in a space of just a few deliveries and a run. By then, Chahal had caused irreparable damage, and it was a mere formality for Dhoni to get his pacers to finish what was left of the batting order.
Despite the fact that India's batting order managed to get to the target in just 26.5 overs with eight wickets to spare, the visitors did not exactly put up a seamless batting performance.
For starters, Karun Nair was found to be struggling in the early stages of his innings. The Delhi Daredevils and Karnataka batsman, who was dismissed for a paltry seven in the first ODI on debut, was caught behind off Chatara’s bowling while batting on 10. It was only due to the bowler overstepping that he was granted a second life, in which he added 29 more runs to his kitty.
However, his attempt to execute a cut off a delivery that wasn’t short enough to be executed properly in the first place, raises a lot of questions. It is even likely that he may not be picked to open in the third game, given that Dhoni is mulling changes in the batting order. Nair may have earned an opportunity to bat in the blue jersey after an impressive IPL season, but he still has a lot to prove if he is to cement his spot in the senior team.