I don’t know why, but Zimbabwe has always had India’s number, especially when the South Asians are on tour. You can find the entire record on Cricinfo’s unbeatable statistics page, but they paint a depressing picture: the Zimbabweans twice beat India in Test matches (and won a series in 1998/1999). The ODI scorecard is more lopsided in India’s favor (39-10), but even as late as 2002, the Zimbabweans picked up victories.
What’s different here is that this Zimbabwe team is not the team of the 1990s, when the likes of the Flower brothers and Heath Streak prowled the field. Obviously, they’ve come a long way, and it’s heartening to think that all those years in non-Test wilderness have borne some fruit (if not proper cricketing equipment; Harbhajan Singh apparently had to donate kits after he saw what his counterparts were working with at the T20 World Cup).
But India has also been a tad hopeless. Suresh Raina can no longer be called a rookie, with nearly 100 matches under his belt. Still, in the first match against the Sri Lankans, he had to be reminded to tell the umpires he wanted to call the Powerplay after the first ten overs. This is how we breed talent in the Indian team: we get them young, out of the domestic leagues, and then ship them off to Australia or Zimbabwe to learn, sink-or-swim style. (We did the same in 2009, when a young Dhoni led an even younger team to victory against the Australians in the ODI series.)
So, don’t think of this series as India v. Zimbabwe. Think of it as another Ranji match; look at the youngsters learn. In any event, a few years from now, they’ll be gone too.