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Zimbabwe’s selection base widening

Enock Muchinjo

THE issue of depth in Zimbabwe cricket has been a popular subject ever since the country was awarded Test status in 1992.

erif”>Zimbabwe has not had enough playing depth for a Test playing nation, especially due to little exposure of local players to both domestic and international first-class competition.

As a result, there has been renewed emphasis on development programmes, domestic tournaments like the Logan Cup and the Faithwear one-day series and first-class matches. Through them, Zimbabwe has made strides to make sure that there is a pool of players who can play international cricket.

Now at least 60 players play local first-class cricket. Half of them have played for either the national team or the Zimbabwe “A” side.

While Zimbabwe is trying to build its depth, the most encouraging sign has been on the bowling side, where several bowlers are improving with every outing. The return of former captain Heath Streak and Andy Blignaut has almost ended the national team’s bowling woes, which were compounded by lack of experience in the youthful side.

However, the likes of pace bowlers Tinashe Panyangara, Christopher Mpofu and the injured medium pacer Edward Rainsford had already carved a niche in the team.

The return of the two senior pacemen can only help the team to get better and more competitive. The presence of Streak and Blignaut helps the youngsters improve on their own personal game, as we saw in South Africa when young Mpofu started bowling well after Streak kept fine spells at the other end.

There are other pace bowlers like the young medium pace bowler Tawanda Mupariwa and leg-spin bowler Graeme Cremer who have already played for the national team and are still hoping to get regular places in the team.

Outside the national team, a good numbers of bowlers have emerged and, with time, they will get selected into the Zimbabwe team.

Waddington Mwayenga, the accurate Mashonaland seam bowler, seems to be back to his potential best after good performances in the Logan Cup. If it was not for his form that had somewhat dipped last year, Mwayenga would have been a key member of the youthful side that was playing then.

Other bowlers coming up are the fast Campbell McMillan, Ian Nicolson and Allan Mwayenga, among others. The likes of Chamunorwa Chibhabha, spinner Keith Dabengwa and medium pacer Greg Strydom are notable all-rounders, which is an added advantage. There is also all-rounder Jordan Nicolle, who is still out with injury.

The selectors now need to identify the players they want for the national side in the next season. Those who cannot be selected as yet, or get contracts, need to be kept in the limelight in first-class competitions and be encouraged to improve on their game.

The players themselves have to be patient enough to wait for the right time when they will become international cricketers. Frustration has destroyed the promising careers of many young players who stopped working hard on their cricket after they felt the selectors had unjustly ignored them. Others even left the country to pursue different careers abroad.

If players can be a bit patient, their Test cricket opportunity will come at the time when they are ripe for that level. Then they will not disappoint.

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