The last time India toured Zimbabwe, they went with a captain who had won a T20 World Cup, a 50-over World Cup and a Champions Trophy title. That wasn’t a full-strength Indian side. This isn’t one either. But this Indian team is led by one of their seven captains from recent times.
Against Bangladesh, they chased down totals of 304 and 291 in successive games, Sikandar Raza scored centuries in both games, Innocent Kaia in the first, and captain Regis Chakabva in the second. But Zimbabwe’s top order – which slipped to scores of 62 for 3, 27 for 3 and 18 for 3 in those three games – will have to find better answers against India’s bowling. Against the Indian bowlers, the “fearless brand of cricket” will be tested more than it was when they played Bangladesh.
Zimbabwe LWWLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Rahul batted in the middle order the last time he played ODIs but he is among India’s frontrunners for an opening slot at the T20 World Cup. Will the management open with him to get him some practice at the top or will they continue to bat him in the middle? Shikhar Dhawan and Shubman Gill opened for India in the ODIs in the Caribbean and they could continue there if Rahul is slotted lower down. With no Suryakumar Yadav and Shreyas Iyer in the squad, Rahul will come in, of course, and Ruturaj Gaikwad could make his ODI debut at some point in the series.
India: 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Ruturaj Gaikwad, 4 KL Rahul (capt), 5 Sanju Samson/Ishan Kishan (wk), 6 Deepak Hooda, 7 Axar Patel, 8 Shardul Thakur/Deepak Chahar, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Prasidh Krishna/Avesh Khan
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Takudzwanashe Kaitano, 2 Tadiwanashe Marumani, 3 Innocent Kaia, 4 Wessly Madhevere/Sean Williams, 5 Sikandar Raza, 6 Regis Chakabva (capt, wk), 7 Ryan Burl/Tony Munyonga, 8 Luke Jongwe, 9 Brad Evans, 10 Victor Nyauchi, 11 Tanaka Chivanga
Pitch and conditions
The Harare Sports Club had batting-friendly pitches in all three games against Bangladesh, but with something for the quick bowlers in the morning because of the early starts. Thursday is expected to be sunny and pleasant with a high of 27 degrees Celsius.
Stats and trivia
“It is a beautiful format. It is a balanced format where you should know when to attack and when to defence. It is not a rushed format, it is about understanding when to attack and when to defence, for both batters and bowlers. I really enjoy playing this format.”
India vice-captain Shikhar Dhawan isn’t hiding his love for ODIs
*2.30pm GMT, August 17: The preview was updated after news came in of Sean Williams being available to play.
Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo