India underestimated Zimbabwe: Why defeat will serve as a timely wake-up call

Hosts Zimbabwe managed to pull off one of the most stunning upsets of the year on Saturday afternoon, in a David vs Goliath clash against India. Zimbabwe, which was decimated by a second-string India in the ODIs preceding the T20 matches, marked a fine comeback by recording a two-run win, their second consecutive T20 win over the Men in Blue.

"Underestimate them at your own peril" is a term that is often reserved for lower-ranked teams in general, sides such as Bangladesh and Ireland in particular. On Saturday, it turned out to be Zimbabwe. The African nation held its nerves till the very last ball of the match, and brought about a much-needed sense of relief and joy to the Harare Sports Club.

On a flat track, seemingly the most batting-friendly one in the whole tour so far, Elton Chigumbura not only ensured Zimbabwe batted their entire quota of overs for the first time in the series, but also took the Indian attack head-on, and ended up winning the battle against them, smashing an unbeaten 54 off just 26 deliveries.

The Indian attack was missing key personnel like Dhawal Kulkarni and Barinder Sran, who had been effective in getting the ball to move early in the innings, but the fact that Chigumbura hammered Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal out of the park is a commendable feat unto itself.

 India underestimated Zimbabwe: Why defeat will serve as a timely wake-up call

Zimbabwe players celebrate after winning the T20 match against India at Harare. AP

Saturday's clash was a day of memorable moments and important life lessons. Finally, after a week full of disappointments, the hosts finally broke into frenzied celebrations following Neville Madziva's terrific final over, in which he managed to prevent proven match-winner and Indian captain Dhoni from scoring the required four runs off the last ball. The way Madziva pulled out a stump and ran towards long-off a-la Imran Tahir tells you how badly the bottom-ranked Test side have been waiting to celebrate in this manner, given the fact that they have hardly been winning anything in recent times.

The top discussion on social media following Zimbabwe’s upset win was Dhoni — from his ability to finish matches, or captaining the limited-overs side in the first place. Indeed, Dhoni has not been having the best of run in recent times, something that was only compounded by Rising Pune Supergiants' (RPS) second-last finish in the recently-concluded Indian Premier League (IPL). Although a 3-0 blanking of the hosts in the ODI leg of the ongoing tour wouldn't lend him much credibility, the latest loss has only armed his critics with new barbs to be thrown at him.

Madziva's final over, reminiscent of a similar one by Kagiso Rabada against the same batsman in an ODI last year, has brought up the debate of Dhoni's finishing ability once again, and though a couple of failures will not do much to tarnish his legacy as a finisher par excellence, he will have to soon produce the match-winning performances if he is to preserve that legacy.

The tour has also finally offered Indian youngsters the learning experience it was expected they would get. It helped expose mistakes from the game, and offered suggestions on what they can do in the coming fixtures. The tour was primarily organised by the BCCI not only to test the team's bench strength, but also for the youngsters to learn the art of excelling in international cricket.

Five Indian cricketers made their T20I debuts on Saturday — KL Rahul, Mandeep Singh, Rishi Dhawan, Yuzvendra Chahal and Jaydev Unadkat — of which only Mandeep managed to make a difference. Rahul, who had got his ODI career off to a spectacular start with a century in the first game of the tour, was bowled for a golden duck. Unadkat, Chahal and Dhawan were all expensive with the ball, and the latter struggled with the bat as well in the final over of the innings. One failure will not damage their career prospects in any way, but they will have to pull their socks up in the coming games if they are to justify their place in the side at all.

Finally, India may have underestimated the Zimbabweans on Saturday, and this defeat will serve as a wake-up call for Dhoni and Co. The visitors will probably make a couple of changes to their line-up, starting with the recall of Kulkarni and Sran into the attack, and the tourists are expected to come back harder if they are to regain pride in the coming fixtures.

For the hosts, this victory will will be talked about for days, even if they go on to lose the next couple of games. In a nation that is ravaged by inflation, poverty and lawlessness, moments of joy are hard to come by. It doesn't help their case that their sports outfits rarely perform. So when one of their bowlers manages to stop a world-class finisher from hitting the winning boundary off the last ball of a match, and pull off a stunning win over the second-ranked team in the world, the smiles are not going to fade away.

Don't be surprised if this turns out to be something of a folklore in Harare in the coming days.

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Updated Date: Jun 19, 2016 14:52:16 IST