HARARE: We may continue to wonder whether ODIs are still relevant but Shikhar Dhawan clearly loves the format. He said so before the series. He reaffirmed his love by scoring an unbeaten 81 in the first ODI on Thursday, his third half-century in four matches over last month. “It is a balanced format where you should know when to attack and when to defend, for both batters and bowlers,” he had said. On the day, Dhawan and his opening partner Shubman Gill started off cautiously against the moving ball and later turned on attacking mode as they took on the chase. Of course, it wasn’t a tall total (189) but it was a clinical performance from India nonetheless. It was not just India’s batting that stood out. Deepak Chahar produced a superb spell of swing bowling to decimate the Zimbabwe top order on his comeback, while Prasidh Krishna and Axar Patel also chipped in with three apiece to dismantle the rest of the line-up. Gill opening the batting meant we couldn’t see much of the other returnee, captain KL Rahul. The win only further showcased India’s resources and depth in the format. Zimbabwe, however, were expected to perform a lot better. They came into the match with a resounding series win against Bangladesh and they were facing an opposition that wasn’t at full strength. Yet they still went down without putting up a fight. The only positive, apart from the decent opening spell by the quicks, was a brief counterattack from their ninth-wicket pair of Brad Evans and Richard Ngarava. This is also the fifth straight loss for them in a match that has Super League status. They will want more from their batting department, especially the likes of captain Regis Chakabva and Sikandar Raza – who was in splendid form in the series against Bangladesh. A comeback in this series will only give Zimbabwe confidence ahead of their ODI tour to Australia starting August 28. Sean Williams, who has been Zimbabwe’s backbone in the batting order for many years, hasn’t been in form of late. His most recent scores read 1, 2, 8, 33 and 28. On Thursday, he played his first ODI since January this year, after missing the games against Afghanistan and Bangladesh for personal reasons. With regular captain Craig Ervine out of this series with injury, Zimbabwe will want Williams to go back to playing more patiently and anchor the innings to help them to competitive totals. Shubman Gill has been making a strong case to be India’s back-up opener for the foreseeable future, and possibly even at the 2023 ODI World Cup. His 82 off 72 balls against Zimbabwe followed scores of 64, 43 and 98 not out against West Indies and the fact that he continued to open even when Rahul was in the XI suggests that perhaps, when the time comes, India see him taking over the role on a more permanent basis. Zimbabwe need a better performance from their top-order, but they are short of options. Even those on the bench right now — Milton Shumba and Takudzwanashe Kaitano — have struggled to make an impact. India are likely to go with the same XI, unless they want to give Ruturaj Gaikwad or Rahul Tripathi a chance. Squads: Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Tadiwanashe Marumani, 2 Innocent Kaia, 3 Sean Williams, 4 Wessly Madhevere, 5 Sikandar Raza, 6 Regis Chakabva (capt & wk), 7 Ryan Burl, 8 Luke Jongwe, 9 Bradley Evans, 10 Victor Nyauchi, 11 Richard Ngarava. India (probable): 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Ishan Kishan, 4 KL Rahul (capt), 5 Deepak Hooda, 6 Sanju Samson (wk), 7 Axar Patel, 8 Deepak Chahar, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Prasidh Krishna, 11 Mohammed Siraj.