One-day internationals (5): Zimbabwe 0, India 5
India's five-match one-day tour was supposed to provide an audition for fringe players ahead of sterner challenges at home to Australia and away to South Africa. But Zimbabwe, who had played practically no cricket since Bangladesh's visit in May ten weeks earlier, offered precious little resistance in a series played out against the backdrop of the corruption scandal in India.
Wisely, the Indian selectors arranged for ten of the touring party to stay on in South Africa with the A side. It was hard, though, to escape the feeling that the tour amounted to crumbs sent from the master's table to keep an old ally alive. India romped to a whitewash, their first away from home, and several players did advance their cause - even taking the weak opposition into account. Virat Kohli enjoyed an easy apprenticeship in his first full series as captain in the absence of the resting M. S. Dhoni, while batsman Ambati Rayudu, and seamers Jaydev Unadkat and Mohit Sharma, all caught the eye. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra, who had not played for India for two years, perplexed Zimbabwe's hapless batsmen with his googly. He took six for 48 in the last game to finish with 18 wickets - a record for a five-match one-day series.
For Zimbabwe, the only bright spot was Elton Chigumbura's rejuvenated batting. Brendan Taylor, normally their most dependable batsman, scraped together just 35 runs - including three ducks - and was as culpable as anyone for the mistakes in the field. Andy Waller, in his first full series as coach, thought the batsmen were too keen on bashing over the top, when a little skilful improvisation was called for. After the rout had been completed, he sent the players to the away dressing-room to glean as much as they could from the Indians.
Performances, though, were not the crux of the matter. Far more important was the money raised via the sale of TV rights and sponsorship, which according to local reports amounted to between $US6m and $8m. A visit by the world's most lucrative side allowed Zimbabwe Cricket to turn in a rare profit. Had the BCCI decided not to send a team, as seemed possible in May, other tours would also have been put in jeopardy. In any case, ZC chairman Peter Chingoka said the revenue was "just a drop in the ocean" when set against the financial bailout the board were said to need.
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