First time unlucky: Bad day for India's army of debutants against Zimbabwe's well-oiled machine

Saturday was a bad day for new beginnings. No horoscope-reading Indian would have scheduled a wedding for this date. No, I haven't consulted my calendar to check the phases of the moon before making such a pronouncement. I don't need to. After watching India lose to Zimbabwe, it is obvious the evil eye was doing its thing.

Cynical? Let's start by asking Yuzvendra Chahal, making his T20I debut. He had honey-trapped the Zimbabwe batsmen in the ODI series. He stood tall (as tall as the dimunative leg-spinner is capable of, anyway) through clobberings of IPL-ish proportions all summer. But on Saturday, he had a bad day. Chahal was taken by apart (and probably aback) by the placement of the Zimbabwe batters. Every time he floated it wide, looking for the top edge off the slog, Elton Chigumbura and Co promptly hit him over the off-side. Zimbabwe showed a marked improvement in shot selection, as if they had spent the last two days taking online courses in how to play leg spin. If only they had taken some on how to run between wickets as well, they could have done even better.

 First time unlucky: Bad day for Indias army of debutants against Zimbabwes well-oiled machine

Zimbabwe's players celebrate their win over India in the first T20. AP

Still unconvinced? Consider KL Rahul, another T20I debutant. With scores of 100*, 33 and 63* in the ODIs, and a stellar IPL behind him, his tail was up, his confidence high. He probably felt he could have made history. Well, he did, but not the kind he wanted to: He became the first Indian to be dismissed off the first ball of a T20I. On his debut. Beginner's luck gone bad.

Earlier in the day, debutant Rishi Dhawan was given the new ball. He is a bowler who relies on swing and changes of pace. His first ball swung. The next ball he dragged down and got pulled for six. That happened three more times, though he got away with fours. With the bat, he twice failed to connect with the ball in the last over.

Figures of 4-0-42-1, at 10.5 runs per over, would have made him the most expensive bowler on most days. Luckily for him, Jaydev Unadkat was also on debut for India.

Unadkat must hate debuts. He probably wishes he could just play his second game first. Unadkat's got a century on Test debut, but with the ball. In 26 wicket-less overs, he conceded 101 runs. Luckily, it was the same Test in which Sachin Tendulkar scored his 50th Test 100, so he got less bad press. But he hasn't played in whites since. His ODI debut was against Zimbabwe at the same ground in 2013; he didn't make an impression in that match either. Safe to say he doesn't like the Harare Sports Club, nad he doesn't like debut matches. So, when he made his T20I debut at the Harare Sports Club, there was only one way his day was going to go.

Mandeep Singh was the only debutant who managed to shake off the mojo. His 31 off 27 balls was the second highest score of the day. However, he was still guilty of what MS Dhoni called "catching practice" during the presentation ceremony. Does being obliquely criticised by your captain count as a bad debut?

Think I'm going overboard with this bad day for debutants thing? Numbers don't lie: The debutants went at an average of 10.25 per over, while Jasprit Bumrah and Axar Patel averaged 5.25. You could argue that the duo is more experienced than the debutants. But Unadkat and Dhawan have played 100 first class games between them; Bumrah and Patel 18 apiece. Experience that.

Some more numbers: On a day when India played five debutants for the first time in T20I history (not counting the first ever T20I match), the combined power of their astronomical influence made sure India lost their second successive T20 game to Zimbabwe, never mind that the two were a year apart. They lost to a team who were missing two of their best players, Craig Ervine and Sean Williams, to injury. Zimbabwe’s star performer, Chigumbura, had consecutive golden ducks in the last two innings. On Saturday, he registered his highest T20I score. He helped Zimbabwe score more runs in one T20, than they averaged in the three ODIs. If all this isn't beginners' bad luck, I don't know what is.

Like Chiyo, the protagonist in Arthur Golden's bestselling book, Memoirs of a Geisha, India made the mistake of embarking on a journey without consulting the almanac (not the one by Wisden, the one by Kaalnirnay). Hindsight is beautiful, but with a little foresight, this humiliating loss may have been avoided. All the team management needed to do was check the calendar for an auspicious day to start the ODI careers of almost half the playing XI. After all, well begun is half done.

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Updated Date: Jun 19, 2016 13:38:24 IST