Fringe players brace up for a tricky Zimbabwe tour

While some of the newcomers are looking forward to the tour, the others are a bit guarded, knowing that impressive performances may not make much impact on the selectors.

Dhawal Kulkarni (centre)... 'You cannot underestimate any opposition.'   -  PTI

For the third time in four years, the Indian team begins its international cricket with a tour of Zimbabwe, arguably the weakest of the 10 Test-playing teams. As a result, the youngsters, in terms of international experience and not age, find themselves in a tricky situation more often than not while touring Zimbabwe.

If they succeed, the fringe players are told they 'had to' succeed against a weak team like Zimbabwe. And their performances usually go unnoticed. For instance, take the case of Kedar Jadhav. In the last of the three ODIs in Zimbabwe in July 2014, he scored an unbeaten 105 off 87 balls but still didn’t feature in the selectors’ scheme of things thereafter.

On the other hand, if a player puts up a mediocre performance, he draws flak for not performing well against a weak team. As a result, the fringe players find it tricky to deal with such a tour.

And there is no dearth of such players in the 16-member contingent that will leave for Zimbabwe in the wee hours of Wednesday to play three ODIs and as many T20s. Barring Dhoni, none of the players has cemented his place in India’s limited-overs team. So, it will be interesting to see the players’ approach.

K. L. Rahul and Dhawal Kulkarni tried to play it safe when asked about their approach on the tour of Zimbabwe. "If you have done well, (it) doesn't matter if you (had scored those runs) against Zimbabwe or any other team. It’s a big challenge for all of us. We would take a hundred or a five-wicket haul or a good performance against any team."

Rahul, the reserve Test opener is expected to make his ODI and T20 debut. "It’s a big opportunity for all of us to go out there and continue with the same performances that we put up over the last couple of years.”

Kulkarni has been in and out of India’s squad for the last couple of years. But he preferred to stay in the present rather than think much about whether his performances will go unnoticed. “You have to keep your mind clear. You cannot underestimate any opposition. You just have to go out there and perform, and leave the rest to God,” he said.

In comparison, the five uncapped players in the squad – Faiz Fazal, Mandeep Singh, Karun Nair, Yuzvendra Chahal and Jayant Yadav – are better off. While Yadav is excited to be 'touring with the Indian team featuring Mahendra Singh Dhoni', Mandeep was looking forward to 'wearing the Indian jersey for the first time'.

But most of the players aspiring to make their debut will hope to build on their notable outings in the IPL and impress India’s most successful captain. However, they will have to keep in mind Dhoni’s words about the importance of living up to the promise shown in the IPL while representing the national team.

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