The Champions Trophy winners have been busy recently and Fletcher will use the limited-overs series against lowly ranked Zimbabwe to allow some new players to stake their claims under the leadership of stand-in captain Virat Kohli, who replaced the rested Mahendra Singh Dhoni for the trip.
“The past two months have been hectic, too much nerve-wracking stuff happened,” Fletcher said late Monday at a dinner to welcome the visitors. “We are looking forward to a less intense tour here. I’m sure fans will enjoy the games.”
India won the Champions Trophy and a recent triangular series final in West Indies by slim margins, and has been playing non-stop in England and the Caribbean for nearly two months. The switch to a more laid back atmosphere was evident at the squad’s first training session in Harare, where players kicked a football about and laughed and joked for much of the workout.
“We are happy to be in Zimbabwe and also looking forward to having a good time out here,” Kohli said. “I believe that the games will be competitive. Our squad is a young one but we are out here to have fun.”
Behind the care-free attitude, there is an important objective for India’s future with five players in line to possibly make their debuts and graduate to first-team reckoning. New talent Parvez Rasool, Mohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Jaydev Unadkat and Ambati Rayudu are all out to pass their early examinations.
Zimbabwe will be under new coach Andy Waller for the first time, and will throw everything into its attempt to upset the top-ranked one-day team and World Cup champion in a rare shot at one of cricket’s big teams.
“Guys are hugely excited by this,” Waller, a former Zimbabwe international, said. “It’s a great experience to them, hopefully all the hard work we put in last month is just going to pay off.”
While India has reached peak ODI form and won 10 of its last 12 matches, the 10th-ranked Zimbabwe last played a 50-over international in early May.