By Enock Muchinjo
THERE are mixed perceptions re-garding individual player performances by the makeshift Zimbabwe cricket team which ended the 2003/2004 season with One Day Internationals (O
DI) against Australia last week.
After whitewash defeats by Australia and earlier by Sri Lanka in Test and ODI matches, the young team showed some potential which could make them a force to reckon with in the future.
Zimbabawe Cricket Union (ZCU) director for development Nick Chouhan said the union’s problems with the 15 rebel players has helped usher in the next generation of Zimbabwe’s cricketers.
“These boys certainly did not embarrass. There was not much to distinguish between them and the previous team,” he said. “I tell you if we bring back a few of the senior guys we can really have a good side. Development is taking its course, one might say.”
Perhaps the most outstanding story of Zimbabwe’s performances against Sri Lanka and Australia was the captaincy of 21-year-old Tatenda Taibu who showed good leadership qualities and signs of maturity.
Moving from strength to strength and showing the desire to take up challenges, Taibu could with time become one of the best captains in cricket history.
Taibu’s batting was inspiring in the critical department where only opening batsman Brendon Taylor was particularly outstanding and consistent.
Despite a poor start in his debut Test match against Sri Lanka, Taylor gradually got his act together to eventually establish himself at the top order.
Three ODI half centuries in just eight appearances against top opposition is quite an achievement for a young batsman at 18 years.
Sadly, the other Zimbabwean batsmen found the going too tough.
Stuart Matsikanyeri and Vusimuzi Sibanda, touted for a long time to become anchormen, struggled after suddenly being thrown into the deep end. The duo made gusty innings before getting stuck and gave away wickets easily.
Alester Maregwede also struggled to make an impression at the crease and the same applies for Dion Ebrahim who had to be dropped to the 12th man in the last ODI against Australia.
On his return to international cricket, Mluleki Nkala gave a good account of himself by stabilising the middle order with courageous batting that saved the team from total collapse on some occasions.
Alongside fellow fast medium pace bowler and all-rounder Elton Chigumbura, Nkala should be expected to continue putting up impressive performances in the absence of a reliable batting order.
It was also a huge morale booster for young Chigumbura when he grabbed 77 runs in the last ODI against Australia.
However, the inexperienced Zimbabwe team has a lot to do in batting as evidenced by the single digit figures as well as a number of ducks on the scoreboards during the Sri Lankan and Australian tours.
More work also still needs to be done on the team’s bowling considering the generosity with which it conceded runs.
A new breed of seam bowlers like Tawanda Mupariwa, Waddington Mwayenga and Edward Rainsford has to be fine-tuned into producing bowling with better line and length.