Being thoroughly professional means that you do not take any team lightly. Even if its a weak team like Zimbabwe. For India, in this particular series, the challenge has been to maintain their own level of cricket. The real enemy always was complacency. And by the looks of it, the young players want to have none of it. That this was a superb opportunity for the new players was clear. What's good to see is that players are making the most of the opportunities they have got.
Players who had tasted international cricket previously but couldn't consolidate their place in the side are gaining confidence. Amit Mishra has grabbed the lifeline that was tossed to him by bowling very well. It's plain to see that he has used his time away from international cricket smartly. He has worked on his variations and is more effective bowling those variations. Jaydev Unadkat looks good running in and so does Mohammed Shami.
In the second game, when India were at sea on a seaming wicket, Shikhar Dhawan and Dinesh Karthik dug in and played out the tough part before counterattacking to get India to a big total. This is a great example of players applying themselves to the conditions and finding ways out of a tricky situation. For a team that's on the top, it's easy for its players to get careless or overconfident, and this fight back by Dhawan and Karthik showed that this Indian team is very keen to extend its reputation as fighters even further and that they are not willing to take anything for granted.
Someone like Rohit Sharma should look to get a big score to his name if he gets his eye in, in either of the remaining games. This is a crucial stage in his cricketing career where a big score will take him a long way in establishing himself in the Indian team. In this series Rohit has got starts but has yet to to capitalise on them. He has a hundred ODIs to his name now and should look to maximise his talent.
What the Indian team needs to be watchful of is to not let their guard down. Even for a single match. Looking at the way they are playing since the series win against England at home, taking results for granted would seem like the only thing that would cost them. At the moment, their only opponent could be a complacent attitude. Keeping their objectives firmly in front of them and to not waver from the path would be the challenge.
After this series in Zimbabwe, India will take on Australia in a seven match series at home. Australia will be a much stronger opposition for sure. But if they fail to pick themselves up from the drubbing they are getting at the hands of England in the Ashes series at the moment, they will be in a very fragile state by the time they arrive in India. This series will be another opportunity for the newcomers in the Indian team to consolidate their positions in the side against an Australian team that's in a rebuilding stage and therefore not at the top of their game.
As for Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh, the senior pros excluded from the team at the moment, its time to recommit and prioritise. Both are training hard to get back to full fitness and are working with a fitness expert in the south of France. With the team doing so well it's going to be tough for these experienced campaigners to make a quick comeback but if they are really hungry for international cricket, they will have an opportunity to stake their claim by performing well for their state sides in the Ranji Trophy which will start at the end of October.
When Yuvraj, Zaheer or Gautam Gambhir play for their state sides with the intensity and keenness to do well and make a comeback, their state teammates as also the the teams they play against stand to gain a great deal. The level of cricket will surely be much higher. Participation of Indian national players in the Ranji Trophy is sure to lift the stature of the tournament.
Virat Kohli is sure to feel much more confident as captain with the way this series has gone for his team. The way things look at the moment, the goal for the Indian team moving forward should be to stay focused, with the feet planted firmly on the ground. If they can do this, their reign at top would last a long time.
First Published: July 31, 2013, 12:31 PM IST