As the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) decided to replace Zimbabwe with Sri Lanka for the three-match T20I series to be held next year, it came as a surprise for the Zimbabwe cricketing fraternity.

After participating in the tri-nation tournament in Bangladesh recently despite the International Cricket Council (ICC) suspension, the players were confident of touring India in January.

Team coach, Lalchand Rajput, feels that it is an opportunity lost for the players. “The players were looking forward to the India tour. Our players are naturally disappointed with the development,” Rajput, who has been the coach of the side since last year, told Sportstar from Singapore where the team will play a tri-nation series involving the host nation and Nepal.

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The support staff had predicted a thorny road ahead after the ICC suspended Zimbabwe in July over its failure to keep the sport free from government interference. But the ban is effective only in events hosted by the ICC, and that allowed the team to participate in the recent tri-nation tournament in Bangladesh — also featuring the host and Afghanistan.

“Playing against the best team in the world would have helped our players immensely. India has the best bowling unit at the moment and playing against them would have certainly helped us. It is quite unfortunate that we missed out on the opportunity,” Rajput said.

“We are now playing tri-nation tournaments and that’s why, we thought that the India tour will be on as well. But we don’t know what exactly happened,” Rajput — who has been a former India coach — said.

The Zimbabwe cricket officials — who are now reinstated following a court order — remained tight-lipped about the development.