Cuttack: Fresh from their 1-0 Test triumph, a confident India start their campaign in the five-match Pepsi One-day Series against Zimbabwe beginning at the Barabati Stadium here on Saturday. But the Zimbabweans are high on morale after their remarkable performance in the just-concluded Nagpur Test that ended in a draw with the visitors setting several records against India.
Although Zimbabwe made a disappointing start of their India tour conceding the Delhi Test to the hosts by seven wickets, two former skippers of the side - Andy Flower and Alistair Campbell - changed the complexion of the game despite being forced to follow on by the opponents in the second Test.Andy not only registered the highest individual score of the side against India by hitting an unbeaten 232, but also helped Zimbabwe record their highest ever total of 503 for six and the first double century partnership of 209 runs against India with Campbell, who also scored his maiden century (102) playing his 47th Test match.Praising the players, particularly Andy Flower for his outstanding performance in both the Tests, Zimbabwean skipper Heath Streak said the morale of the team was very high. He said it had to keep up this tempo to fight against India in the five One-dayers.
On the other hand, the 1-0 Test triumph has also been a morale booster for Saurav Ganguly-led Indian team before the start of the One-day series. Though India held the upper hand by dismissing Zimbabwe in both the previous One-day matches in the tri-nation Coco Cola Cup tournament at Sharjah with narrow margin, their humiliating defeat in the final against Sri Lanka by a record margin of 245 runs must still be fresh in their memory. Perturbed by this dismal performance of the side, the Indian selectors have effected several changes in the side giving preference to the youngsters while dropping Robin Singh and Vinod Kambli from the 14-memberIndian squad for the first three One-dayers against Zimbabwe.
The selectors have picked utility player Nikhil Chopra and two new faces - Reetinder Singh Sodhi and Shiv Sundar Das, who recently made his Test debut against Bangladesh.While the return of Dravid, who missed the last two One-day matches against Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka because of a broken finger, would strengthen India's batting line up the absence of the side's number one spinner Anil Kumble and speedster Javagal Srinath would certainly be felt in the bowling department.
As Srinath has opted out of the One-day series for personal reasons, left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan and Venkatesh Prasad will spearhead the Indian bowling attack, while skipper Heath Streak and promising speedster Travis Friend will take charge of the Zimbabwean bowling. Meanwhile, the visitors suffered a set back in their bowling department as ace spinner Paul Strang had to return home with an arm injury.Despite the injury problems affecting both the sides, the first One-day International promises to be a tough one. Studded with several stalwarts, the batting line up of both India and Zimbabwe look equally strong.
While skipper Ganguly and Tendulkar are likely to open the innings for India, Zimbabwe might go for a change in their order because of the failure of their regular openers Grant Flower and Gavin Rennie in previous One-dayers.The Barabati pitch, which was considered to be a happy hunting ground for the batsmen, has remained favourable to India. Out of seven One-day matches India played here since 1982, they have won on five occasions losing only twice in 1982 against England and in 1990 against Sri Lanka.
The 25,000 capacity stadium ravaged by the last year's super cyclone had been given a facelift at a cost of Rs 20 lakh.According to Orissa Cricket Association Secretary, Mr Behera all the tickets were sold out on the very first day of opening of the ticket counters on October 28. Enraged by the non-availability of tickets, cricket fans stormed the OCA office recently damaging its property.
Mr Behera said all arrangements, including the security for smooth conduct of the match were complete. Besides, repairing the manual and electronic scoreboards that were damaged in the cyclone, a 40-capacity air-conditioned room had been constructed for the VIPs.Huge cut outs of six prominent cricketers from Orissa, includingDebashis Mohanty, Sanjay Raul, Shiv Sundar Das, Rashmi RanjanParida, Sanjay Satpathy and Pravanjan Mallick had been erected before the main entrances to the stadium to honour them.
Teams: India (from): Saurav Ganguly (captain), Shiv Sundar Das, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Reetinder Singh Sodhi, Yuvraj Singh,Hemang Badani, Sridharan Sriram, Vijay Dahiya (wicket-keeper), Sunil Joshi, Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar, Nikhil Chopra and Venkatesh Prasad.
Zimbabwe (from): Heath Streak (captain), Guy Whittall (vice-captain), Alistar Campbell, Stuart Carlisle, Andrew Flower, Grant Flower, Travis Friend, Trevor Madondo, Douglas Marillier, Brian Murphy, Mluleki Nkala, Henry Olonga, Gavin Rennie, Bryan Strang and Dirk Viljoen.