Test time: who’s in, who’s out?

Enock Muchinjo

AS the tour by New Zealand and India approaches, selectors have probably made up their minds about who they regard competent to represent Zimbabwe in the new season.


<
FONT face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>The selectors’ job is no doubt a hard one. It is therefore understandable when selectors choose to stick to a regular team in order to avoid periodical changes that may affect team stability. But players do not always stay in form.


Further, avoiding changes becomes even more difficult when the team has to be selected strictly on merit. In certain instances, selectors keep to certain players despite loss of form, using their professional ingenuity to judge the importance of these players’ presence in the team, and their capacity to pick themselves up again.


In the Zimbabwe set-up, Zimbabwe Cricket has resolved that convenor Macsood Ebrahim and his panel select the team on merit. But the panel is made up of knowledgeable personalities, and their experience in the game could see them making some selections not necessarily based on form.


Without trying to influence any selection decision, this column will just go through the material at the selectors’ disposal and come up with what we think should be the composition of the Zimbabwe Test side for the new season.


Form may not permit that all seven former dissenting players be drafted into the team, but again, we have already mentioned that this is only a fantasy game.


To start with, the Test side should see Trevor Gripper coming back to reclaim his position as opening batsman with either Neil Ferreira or Dion Ebrahim. Gripper is a typical Test batsman because of his patience to wait for the right ball to put away, while Ebrahim can attack with spark if he survives the opening spell and garners confidence.


We reckon Hamilton Masakadza is going to be one of the key players for Zimbabwe in international cricket if he keeps a cool head, and giving him more of responsibility by thrusting him in at number-three will only add to his buoyancy and strengthen his blossoming into a world-class player.


Number-four is the ideal position for Tatenda Taibu, considering that the young skipper also has to captain the side and keep wicket. Lower at number five and six, Stuart Carlisle and Heath Streak’s jobs will be to consolidate things in the top middle order.


Bowlers Andy Blignaut and Tinashe Panyangara come in the lower middle order at eight and nine. Both men are hard hitters of the ball and can rescue an innings by playing big shots to the boundary at the end of an innings.

Off-spin bowler Prosper Utseya and medium pace bowler Douglas Hondo complete the Test side.


Batsmen like Stuart Matsikenyeri, Barney Rogers and Mark Vermeulen will be on stand-by. They have all played for the team and have an idea of what Test cricket is like.


Bowling wise, Streak leads an attack comprising four seamers, which suits local conditions especially at Harare Sports Club. Streak has always taken the new ball with Blignaut, but Panyangara did the job with some success last season. Both Blignaut and Panyangara are also effective as change bowlers.


But if a vacancy for a pace bowler opens up, youngsters Edward Rainsford and Tawanda Mupariwa will be in front of the queue. Rainsford and Mupariwa, two of the finest swing bowlers around, represent the future of Zimbabwe’s attack.