HARARE, Harare Province (AFP) – Zimbabwe begin a five-match one-day series against India on Wednesday accepting that victory in even one of the games would represent a good result against the top-ranked side in the world.
India may have rested captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, leading spinner R Ashwin and seamers Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, but Zimbabwe's new coach Andy Waller expects their replacements to prove equally threatening.
"All along we've prepared with the hope that we might surprise them in one of the games - we have to be realistic, and look to be competitive and do the best that we can," Waller said.
"India have got so many cricket players that I don't think there's a huge difference between the guys who have come in and some of the players they've left out."
Zimbabwe go into Wednesday's game at Harare Sports Club with their most settled batting line-up in many years, having been boosted by Sean Williams' performances in the middle order during their series victory over Bangladesh.
Williams has overcome a minor injury that kept him out of a three-day match against Australia A last week, which a Zimbabwe Select XI lost by 80 runs.
"Our top six are settled," Waller said. "The guys are hugely excited about this. We've been preparing knowing that the best side in the world are coming."
India's last visit to Zimbabwe was in 2010 for a tri-series that included Sri Lanka, when they failed to make the final after losing twice to the hosts.
While India's squad for this series may be short on experience, they will not lack for motivation having gained the opportunity to press for more regular inclusion in the future.
Seamer Jaydev Unadkat and batsmen Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane have been brought in, along with uncapped players Parvez Rasool and Mohit Sharma.
Even the more senior players will have something to prove, with Virat Kohli hoping to showcase his captaincy credentials as he leads the side in Dhoni's absence.
"You need eleven players who are hungry for success, who are hardworking and whose vision is victory," Kohli said. "All fifteen players are strong and it is a strong unit, which is good."