| Streak says it’s a big day for Zimbabwe
|Hemang Badani at the Bellerive Oval on Tuesday. (AP)
Hobart: Having surrendered a clearly winning position against Australia the other day, India go into their second match of the tri-series on Wednesday hoping to get some contribution with the bat from the tail-enders. Like India, Zimbabwe also lost their opening game after being in a position of strength.
The performance of the lower-order batsmen has been a major worry for the Indians on this tour and captain Sourav Ganguly has already made it clear that the tail-enders need to show more character.
India lost their last six wickets for just 13 runs in Melbourne when they seemed to be cruising to the target of 289 at 257 for four.
Sourav was livid with the pathetic batting display and the team will be determined to make amends against a team which does not have the firepower to match the Indians.
The Indian top-order has been firing on all cylinders and the team could definitely gain a lot if the tailenders also chip in with some runs.
The Indians are expected to bring in left-hand batsman Hemang Badani in place of utility player Sanjay Bangar who failed to make much of an impression in the Melbourne day-nighter.
The Indians are hoping to cash in on a flat batting track at the Bellerive Oval which may, however, provide some assistance to the bowlers in the early stages of the game.
The top five Indian batsmen, who all got big hundreds in the Test series against Australia, should be able to carry on their good work against an attack which isn’t the most threatening in the world. The Zimbabwe, however, possess arguably the best fielding unit in the competition.
Badani, who will bat at six or seven, is seen as a better bet than Bangar because of his wristy strokeplay and useful left-arm spin.
The Indians would bank more on their heavyweight batsmen as they are likely to again field a couple inexperienced pacers in Laxmipathy Balaji and Irfan Pathan. Ajit Agarkar, whose six-wicket haul in Melbourne went down the drain, and Anil Kumble will provide the strikeforce.
Sourav will have himself, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and Badani to choose from for delivering the fifth bowler’s quota of 10 overs.
The captain has also asked for an improvement in ground fielding which was terrible at the MCG. The catching, on the other hand, was of a high standard.
Despite their 99-run loss in Sydney, the Zimbabweans aren’t exactly downcast. They restricted the world champions to a modest 225 for eight only to be let down by the batsmen.
Heath Streak said a similar disciplined effort could help his team contain the Indian batsmen. “As we showed against Australia the other day, if we bowl with discipline, we can make it tough and force players to take risk,” said the 30-year-old skipper. “But tomorrow is a big day for us and we know we are up against one of the best teams in the world.”
Streak was aware that to rein in the free-stroking Indians like Sehwag and Tendulkar, the bowlers would have to be backed by committed fielding.
“Sehwag is fantastic, a great flamboyant player and they have many marvellous eye-players like him. Tendulkar can also take any bowling apart. We have to be ready to take our half chances, a sharp catch and run-out to put pressure on them,” Streak observed.
He also acknowledged the batsmen have to fire if Zimbabwe are to pose any threat to their two rivals. He urged his batsmen to put their hands up and do a better job than they did the other night when they folded up for 126 runs.
“It was only for eight overs or so that we batted well in Sydney. Our top batters need to put up their hand and produce runs and partnerships, especially in the first 15 overs, to give a good launching pad.”
Visu Sibanda is a young opener who Streak praises highly. With the experience of just six one-day Internationals, though, the 20-year-old faces a tough task of justifying his rating.
Stuart Matsikenyeri is another 20-year-old who made his international debut last season but has had a poor run so far, with a tally of 102 runs from 14 matches.
Mark Vermuelen is a batsman of immense potential as he has shown in 16 ODIs, but it’s time he produced a big knock (79 is his best so far). The solidity comes from Grant Flower, Stuart Carlisle, Sean Ervine and Streak himself. Allrounder Andy Blignaut and wicketkeeper Tatenda Taibu are capable of striking big blows.
India: Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly (captain), V.V.S. Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Hemang Badani, Yuvraj Singh, Laxmipathy Balaji, Irfan Pathan, Anil Kumble, Ajit Agarkar.
Zimbabwe: Visu Sibanda, Stuart Carlisle, Mark Vermuelen, Grant Flower, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Heath Streak (captain), Tatenda Taibu, Sean Ervine, Andy Blignaut, Raymond Price, Douglas Hondo.
Hours of play (in IST): 4.30 am to 8 am; 8.40 am to 12.10 pm.