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Rahul, Sran, and other rising stars from India’s tour to Zimbabwe

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© Twitter - Zimbabwe Cricket

Rahul, Sran, and other rising stars from India’s tour to Zimbabwe

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Arun S Kaimal


The 12-day long tour saw a lot of young Indian players making their debuts with almost all of them rising to the occasion. But, there were a few who stood out from the rest.

Of late, India’s tour to Zimbabwe has always been a ground to test youngsters. Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, and Ajinkya Rahane captained the tours in 2010, 2013, and 2015 respectively as the Men in Blue tested their bench strength. However, this time around, MS Dhoni was at the helm. The 34-year-old, a veteran of more than 250 ODI matches, led out an inexperienced and promising bunch of players in the ODI and the T20 series against the African nation to return with a clean sweep in the ODIs, and a 2-1 series win in the shortest format.

The 12-day long tour saw a lot of young Indian players making their debuts with almost all of them rising to the occasion. But, there were a few who stood out from the rest.

1. KL Rahul

ODIs – Matches - 3, Runs - 196, Avg - 196.00, Strike rate – 83.40, Highest score – 100*

T20s – Matches – 3, Runs – 69, Average – 34.50, Strike rate – 113.11, Highest score – 47*

Before the start of IPL 2016, KL Rahul would have been known as a Test specialist. A technically correct batsman, who is suited to the longer format of the game—that was the general opinion about the right-hander. Fast forward two months and everything has changed for the Karnataka lad. A good season of IPL with Royal Challengers Bangalore propelled him into the thoughts of the selectors, and it helped him snatch a spot on the plane to Zimbabwe.

 © Twitter - Zimbabwe Cricket

When the 24-year-old, who had a disastrous debut for India in the Tests, walked out for his ODI debut at the Harare Sports Club on June 11, he would have hoped about a much better maiden performance. Chasing 169, India had lost Karun Nair early, but Rahul put on his Test cap and toiled hard in the difficult pitch to take India out of the woods. Once the team was in a stable position, he was back to his RCB days, pull shots and lofted shots came out of the bag, and he finished the match with a cherry on the top – a stunning hit over long-on – to become the 11th cricketer in history, and the first Indian to score an ODI century on debut.

Century elevated the Mangalore boy's status in the Indian team, and he continued his good run with two more good knocks in the next two ODIs. He finished the series with 196 runs, and a Man of the Series Award to finish it on a high. However, the T20 series did not start well for the youngster. The 24-year-old returned to the dressing room with a golden duck before bouncing back with an unbeaten 47 in the second T20I. Although he did not score much in the third T20, his performances in the tour have certainly put his name in the reckoning for a permanent spot in the ODI and T20 team, when India return to their blue in October.

Also read: Is KL Rahul the long term replacement for Shikhar Dhawan ?

ODIs – Matches 3, Wickets – 9, Avg – 8.55, Economy rate – 2.98, Best figure – 4/22

T20s – Matches 3, Wickets – 5, Avg – 11.60, Economy rate – 4.83, Best figure – 3/11

2016 has been a fantastic year for Jasprit Bumrah. The bowler, with an unorthodox action, was parachuted into the Indian ODI team back in January as an emergency replacement. His inch-perfect yorkers impressed one and all as he, along with Manish Pandey, helped India clinch their first victory in the ODI series against Australia.

 © Gettyimages

A flurry of T20 action followed the Gujarat bowler, and when he was selected for Zimbabwe tour, many were left wondering why a premier fast bowler was being sent on the tour. So much has been Bumrah’s impact in the last few months that almost everyone forgot about the number of ODIs he had played before the Zimbabwe tour – 1.

The 22-year-old, who played 16 T20s between his first ODI and second, turned out to be India’s star performer on the tour, bagging 14 wickets in six matches. The Mumbai Indians bowler emerged as the highest wicket-taker in the ODIs at an astounding economy rate of 2.98. The figures of Bumrah once again stood out in the T20 series breaking the back of the Zimbabwe batting line-up. Dhoni used the Gujarat bowler as a wicket-taking option, and the bowler delivered whenever he was brought on. With India’s limited-over assignments taking a break till October, Bumrah will be another one of the limited-over specialists to take some much-needed rest.

Also read: Why BCCI's dramatic head coach selection process is nothing but a farce

3. Barinder Sran

ODIs – Matches 3, Wickets – 4, Avg – 24.75, Economy rate – 4.12, Best figures – 2/17

T20s -Matches 2, Wickets 6, Avg – 6.83, Economy rate – 5.12, Best figures – 4/10

Similar to Bumrah, Barinder Sran also came to the fore during India’s tour to Australia. A 3/56 on debut showed the immense potential in the left-arm pacer, who is in the mould of Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra. Although he faded away after the debut performance, IPL brought him back into contention for the Indian team after a good IPL.

 © Gettyimages

After learning the tricks of swing bowling from Ashish Nehra and Bhuvneshwar Kumar during the IPL, Sran arrived in Zimbabwe as India’s premier swing bowler. His ability to strike early was expertly used by Dhoni during the tour. Although he did not pick as many wicket as Bumrah in the ODI series, he proved to be a threat every time he used the ball.

Significantly, India’s only defeat in the series also came in the absence of the left-armer. Dhoni brought back Sran and his new-ball partner Dhawal Kulkarni for the second T20, and he delivered for the captain with best bowling figures for India on T20I debut. His figures of 4/10 shredded the Zimbabwe batting line-up, and it ultimately helped him win the Man of the Series Award in the T20.

4. Yuzvendra Chahal

ODIs – Matches 3, Wickets – 6, Avg – 12.83, Economy rate – 3.20, Best figures – 3/25

T20s – Matches 3, Wickets – 3, Avg – 29.66, Economy rate – 7.41, Best figures – 1/19

Just like all the others in the list, Yuzvendra Chahal’s route to the Indian squad for Zimbabwe also was the IPL. The star performer with the ball for RCB took nine wickets in the tour and impressed everyone with his ability to take wickets in a clump. Unlike Amit Mishra, who is India’s premier leg-spinner, Chahal is not a big turner of the ball and mainly banks on his control and length to outfox batsmen.

 © Twitter - Zimbabwe Cricket

The trust showed by Dhoni in the 25-year-old and the absence of quality leg-spinners in the country shows us the importance of nurturing Chahal for the future. Unlike Rahul, Bumrah, and Sran, who had stand-out performances in the tour, Chahal has been under the radar but consistent with his performances bagging wickets at crucial stages.

Also read: Yuzvendra Chahal | RCB’s unsung hero takes flight in national colours

Among the four players, Bumrah is the only one who walks right into the Indian limited-overs team currently. KL Rahul, Barinder Sran, and Yuzvendra Chahal have proved that they are good options to come into the side when the time comes. The tour has also thrown up others like Mandeep Singh, Faiz Fazal, Axar Patel, and Dhawal Kulkarni, who have showed glimpses of their talent, signalling a bright future for the Indian cricket team

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