Zimbabwe T20Is provided great learning experience for Indian youth, but did they take notes?

Few would have expected the third T20 match between India and Zimbabwe to shape up the way it did. But, as a narrow 3-run victory for India in the series finale suggests, MS Dhoni's men were made to huff and puff by the hosts, and a 2-1 series win was the perfect way to end their tour of Zimbabwe on a high.

Skipper Dhoni, visibly relieved at the post-match presentation ceremony after his team managed to come from behind to win the series 2-1, went on to say that the T20I series turned out to be a great learning experience for the young squad that he was leading, more so than the ODI series that preceded it.

Having played the sport for over a decade, Dhoni would have a certain qualification in making that statement, given the fact that his tasks for this tour were to nurture the young talent that the selectors had presented to him after observing their performances in the domestic season and the Indian Premier League (IPL).

 Zimbabwe T20Is provided great learning experience for Indian youth, but did they take notes?

Indian players celebrate a wicket. AP

Dhoni could not have been more spot on with his assessment. For first-timers like Mandeep Singh and Yuzvendra Chahal, a 3-0 blanking in the ODIs doesn't prepare them enough for the tougher battles that lie ahead in one’s career. They needed to be put under pressure for them to learn an important cricket lesson — the art handling such situations. And who better to train and inspire them in such situations than 'captain cool' himself.

For India, Barinder Sran was one of the many highlights from the T20I series, and it was fitting for him to be named player-of-the-series. Sran may have had his moments during the tour of Australia and the IPL, and he may have got his T20I career kick-started in style with a haul of 4/10, but his biggest lesson perhaps would have been the final over of the third and final T20I. He started off on the wrong foot by bowling three atrocious deliveries to Timycen Maruma, but in the end, he managed to make up for it by sticking to the ideal line and length for the situation (though one would put the blame on Elton Chigumbura for messing up a full toss in the last ball with four needed to win).

Sran however, remains the most talked-about bowler from the series other than Neville Madziva, with none of the other Indians pulling off headline-grabbing stuff in this regard. After carrying his wicket-grabbing run over from the IPL into the ODI series, Chahal seemed to have fizzled out in the T20Is, and rather surprisingly so. Though he managed to get the odd important dismissal or two, there were quite a few poor deliveries bowled in T20Is which resulted in him getting hammered for runs.

Having dominated the bowling charts in ODIs, Bumrah finished behind Sran in the next leg of the tour. Given that he has secured a permanent spot for himself in the limited-overs side, Bumrah perhaps did not need to do much as compared to the others, but still managed to impress everybody with his economical spells as well as his destruction of the stumps.

The batsmen, however, were made to sweat it out at the Harare Sports Club on more than one occasion. While the likes of Mandeep, Kedar Jadhav and Manish Pandey managed to impress with half-centuries (although Pandey missed out on the milestone by a whisker) after being sidelined in the 50-over series, a majority of the batting order crumbled under pressure when the situation called for them to pull off something heroic.

The fans barely got to witness the Dhoni of yore though. The skipper struggled in the two innings in which he got to bat, and finished unbeaten on a rather disappointing note in the first game when he failed to get India across the finish line. Facing an uphill task in the third match, his innings was brought to an abrupt end after he dragged a Donald Tiripano delivery onto his stumps. His critics may have got some additional fodder, but the veteran of many battles still has a fight or two left in him before he decides to hang up his boots for good, quit captaincy in the format for that matter.

What was also dampening was to see KL Rahul flop twice, especially after shining in the ODIs with an eyeball-grabbing average of 196. While Mandeep beat him to a half-century in the second game as the visitors pulled off their largest victory in the format, getting his stumps rattled for low scores on two occasions, including a golden duck in the first match, doesn't do his talent justice at all.

That said, Rahul shone the brightest among the youngsters, and may have proven his case for booking a spot in the limited-overs squad after getting off to a successful start in Tests.

For the Zimbabweans however, it was a spectacular turnaround in the second half of the series after nearly driving interim head coach Makhaya Ntini to suicide in the ODIs. From being outplayed in every department by a second-string Indian side, Graeme Cremer's men proved that they still have the ability to pack a punch, which they proved in the first and third games.

When nobody else stood up against the might of the Indians, Chigumbura showed the way forward with a match-winning 25-ball-50 in the series opener. Cremer showed enormous faith in Madziva when he entrusted him with the ball for the final over against one of the greatest finishers of all time later that game. The way he stood up to the occasion, bowling a perfect yorker outside off to cramp Dhoni for room when the visitors needed four off the last ball, was heroic to say the least.

For long, the local supporters at the Harare Sports Club would break into a song-and-dance routine regardless of their team's performances. This time, however, their celebrations were justified. Dhoni gets a well-deserved break to reunite with his wife and daughter, with the next assignment still some time away. Sanjay Bangar would be a relieved man to get some success after a nightmare of a run in the IPL.

However, it would be difficult to ascertain the journey of most members of the Indian camp after this series. Jayant Yadav, who remained the only member of the travelling party to not get a single opportunity in this tour, perhaps would not be the only one to sink into oblivion after this tour when the seniors return to the limelight. However, the tour had a purpose in the minds of the selectors, and it may very well have been fulfilled.

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Updated Date: Jun 23, 2016 17:43:48 IST