HARARE – India stand-in captain Virat Kohli is still haunted by Asians’ last visit to Zimbabwe three years ago when they lost two back-to-back matches to the hosts.
The last time these two teams met was here in Zimbabwe during the 2010 Triangular series won by Sri Lanka.
The hosts beat India, then captained by Suresh Raina by six wickets with 10 balls to spare in Bulawayo.
Zimbabwe followed up that victory with another impressive performance in a seven-wicket win over the Asians in their last round robin match at HSC to send the visitors crushing out of the tournament.
The chief protagonists for the hosts was wicketkeeper Brendan Taylor who top-scored in the first match with 81 runs before notching 74 in the second meeting.
Craig Ervine contributed 67 runs in the first match while Hamilton Masakadza made 66 in the second game with retired all-rounder Graig Lamb taking three wickets with his left-arm spin.
Kohli is back in the country and will lead the Asian country in five One Day Internationals against Zimbabwe which get underway Wednesday morning at Harare Sports Club.
HSC will host two more games on Friday and Sunday before the teams travel to Bulawayo for the last two encounters at Queens Sports Club.
“Zimbabwe beat us the last time we came here, so we know we are going to get some tough competition from them,” Kohli said at a press conference on Tuesday.
“They have some really talented players in their squad so we won’t take them lightly. It’s going to be a competitive series. We have to play well if we want to win and all the guys in the team know that.”
The two teams have an even number of survivors from the last meeting; in their current sides.
Zimbabwe has Taylor, Masakadza, Elton Chigumbura, Graeme Cremer, Prosper Utseya and Raymond Price.
On the other hand India has Dinesh Karthik, Rohit Sharma, Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra and captain Kohli.
Kohli is looking forward to captaining his side in a full series in the absence of substantive skipper MS Dhoni.
“Yeah definitely, it was a good experience for me in the West Indies in the last series, although I was stepping in,” added Kohli.
“It wasn’t that easy because I field in every position when I’m playing under MS Dhoni and it’s very hard to analyse where the fielders are and what bowlers to rotate because you’re focusing on stopping the ball and giving ?100 percent on the field.
“But then I sat and analysed things when I had to captain in three games. I’m really looking forward to this.
“I have a bunch of very exciting young players who are eager to perform so it shouldn’t be that difficult, but you never know with captaincy — you can have difficult situations. So it will be a test for me and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Former Zimbabwean captain Duncan Fletcher, who is now the coach for India is credited with transforming his side to a competitive unit although he faced criticism in his early days.
The Indian team also boast of Trevor Penney, another Zimbabwean who is their fielding coach.
“He (Fletcher) has a lot of experience here but we came here in 2010 so we have a fair idea of conditions, how the wicket behaves in the morning and later in the day,” said Kohli.
“Guys who have played here before have shared that input, but Duncan has been a great help-not just for this series but overall since he’s been coach.
“He had really difficult times initially and was criticised a lot, but he’s stuck with the team and stayed strong and we’ve seen the results now,” he said.
“We’ve really benefiting from all the experience he has — he has the cricketing brain in the world and just has so much knowledge about the game.
“Him and Trevor Penney are both really excited to be here because they haven’t been here for a while, so it’s a good feeling to have both of them who’ve played here, helping us in that department.”
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor is looking forward to the series and has targeted causing another upset.
“The fans should expect some entertaining cricket. We have had nine solid weeks of constructive training and it’s time to go out there and execute what we have been working on during those nine weeks,” said Taylor.
“We are all excited but we want to put forward a positive brand of cricket and there’s no better team to do it than against India.
“We’ve had some success in the past at home against India so hopefully we can continue that way.”
Zimbabwe: Brendan Taylor (capt & wk), Sikandar Raza, Tendai Chatara, Michael Chinouya, Elton Chigumbura, Graeme Cremer, Kyle Jarvis, Timycen Maruma, Hamilton Masakadza, Natsai M’shangwe, Tinotenda Mutombodzi, Vusimuzi Sibanda, Prosper Utseya, Brian Vitori, Malcolm Waller, Sean Williams, Raymond Price.
India: Virat Kohli (capt.), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Cheteshwar Pujara, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Parveez Rasool, Shami Ahmed, R Vinay Kumar, Jaydev Unadkat, Mohit Sharma.