THE Zimbabwe cricket team appears to be using up less than half of its maximum potential.
Saturday’s one-day defeat at the hands of Kenya showed just how the Zimbabwe team has reached the pinnacle of underperformance.
How a team fails to chase a winning target of 118 runs against opponents outside the Test arena is inexcusable. Then they were whitewashed by the Kenyans in the two three-day games and a single one-dayer.
On a number of occasions on this column, we have suggested potential remedies for the Zimbabwe team like the need to train the players in mental fitness, but the question arising out of the latest defeat is whether our team is now such a package of nerves that even winning against Kenya has become an enormous task.
Something has to be done before this losing culture becomes part and parcel of the cricket sides from this country.
What is more worrying about the Kenya defeat is that it came against a lower team and at a time when the country is under pressure to perform.
Under the prevailing situation, the matches against Kenya should have been the best opportunity to prove that Zimbabwe can still win against sides ranked lower than them on the world cricket order.
Zimbabwe’s main problem remains the batting. Batsmen continue to shirk responsibility. There appears to be a deep-rooted tendency in the team to say: “Let the next guy come in and see if he can face this bowler.”
The level of batting is simply dreadful. Something must be done as a matter of urgency to have some level of accountability in the players.
The team has to move away from the usual “disappointed batsman” where the coach sympathetically approaches a dismissed batsman afterwards and says to him “Did it swing?” and the batsman replies, “Nah, it was straight.
Thought it was missing leg stump.” And it happens again and again.
The results against Kenya now make the tour to India for the Duleep Trophy an even bigger challenge for the Zimbabwe team to prove its mettle.
Talking of India, the national Under-19 side will be off to the sub-continent in a few weeks to take part in the inaugural Under-19 Afro-Asia Cup. The national selectors this week picked a side of 14 players for the tournament which will be contested by teams from the six Test nations from the two continents.
The side is captained by all-rounder Sean Williams, who will be deputised by wicketkeeper/batsman Tafadzwa Mufambisi.
Overall, the selectors chose a squad of 20 players in view of the International Cricket Council Under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka in February next year.
But six of the players did not make the Afro-Asia Cup side due to commitments. However, they will challenge for play in the 14-member World Cup side for next year.
Players in the provisional side who are not going to India are Keegan Meth, Gary Balance, Steven Nyamuzinga, Friday Kasteni, Paul Trethowan, and Ronald Benade.
The Afro-Asia Cup gives players in the side an opportunity to claim an early stake for places in the World Cup side.
Zimbabwe ought to be one of the most competitive sides at the inter-continental tournament. Three players – skipper Williams, Chamunorwa Chibhabha and Graeme Cremer – already have Zimbabwe caps and it is remarkable that they still qualify for an age-group side.
The versatile Benade, if he goes to the World Cup, will be making his second appearance at a junior championship in two years after he represented Zimbabwe in rugby’s Under-19 World Cup last year as a flyhalf.
There is exciting young talent in Zimbabwean cricket, and the next four months will show their readiness to explode on the international scene.
* The Zimbabwe Under-19 team for the Afro-Asia Cup:
Sean Williams (captain), Tafadzwa Mufambisi (vice-captain), Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Ian Nicholson, Graeme Cremer, Ryan Higgins, Prince Masvaure, Kudakwashe Samunderu, Taurai Muzarabani, Victor Chaitezvi, Patience Charumbira, Reginald Chakabva, Glenn Querl, Archibald Chirinda.