By Enock Muchinjo
BEFORE the ICC Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh early this year, IndependentSport carried a preview of the Zimbabwe team, underlining how consistency would prove to be a positive factor in
the side’s performance.
Half of the players in the Zimbabwe Under-19 side had been together since the Under-14 age group and there were four “veterans” from the previous World Cup in the side. It was a well-deserved farewell to junior cricket for the team as they reached the Super Six stage of the tournament on the back of a sensational seven-wicket rout of former champions Australia.
Someone who plays for the national Under-19 team should really have his sights set on a career in cricket. Authorities must make sure that there is swift transformation from junior international cricket to first-class and eventually Test and one-day international cricket.
They must also ensure that players who reach the national Under-19 level and those who enter a national academy must never be frustrated out of the game, or else all the efforts and resources put into grooming these players over the years will go to waste.
In the past, Zimbabwe cricket has not been able to account for all its former junior players. Emigration has had a hand in it, but a good number of these former youth internationals are still resident in the country. Some are still playing cricket but are struggling to rise above club level.
A good example is the 1998 World Cup side whose captain Bertus Erasmus, Jannie Oosthuizen and Taussos Manoussis have disappeared from local cricket afterwards. Others like David Mutendera and Douglas Marillier had stints with the senior national side but never realised their full potential.
Players like Andre Hoffman, Ian Engelbrecht and Donald Campbell played first-class cricket for a while but are not in any of the Logan Cup sides this season. This leaves Mluleki Nkala and Mark Vermeulen the only members of that Under-19 side who are part of the current national team.
Not all players who get selected into the national Under-19s or enrol at the CFX Academy will immediately make the senior representative sides. As a policy, these players must be kept active at a level higher than club cricket and ever ready for first-class and international cricket.
Of the Zimbabwe Under-19 team that was in Bangladesh, 10 out of the 14 players are playing club cricket and are all in the Logan Cup sides. Overall, it is a good sign, although the team’s captain Tino Mawoyo and his vice James Cameron have not played any first-class cricket unlike most of their teammates.
Of the 17 CFX graduates from last year, the bulk of the players are involved in first-class cricket. This must be used as s starting point in consolidating consistency in Zimbabwe cricket.
Meanwhile, as the one-day international tour by England to Zimbabwe approaches, there are likely to be notable changes in the Zimbabwe team that played in the ICC Champions Trophy in England and in the Paktel Cup in Pakistan recently.
Almost all the players who have been performing well in club cricket have an opportunity to prove their mettle in the on-going first-class Logan Cup that started this week. There will also be more competitive matches for the fringe players to convince selectors before the England team arrives. A 24-member Zimbabwe A squad has been named.
Some of the Zimbabwe A players also stand a chance for selection into a Zimbabwe select team to play against Namibia in warm-up matches on November 10 and 13 at Old Georgians Sports Club and at the CFX Academy respectively. Afterwards, the Zimbabwe A players will engage their counterparts in the proper Zimbabwe side in two matches on November 19 at Universals Sports Club and on November 24 at Takashinga.
There are no major differences between players in the senior national side and the Zimbabwe A team in terms of talent and ability. Half of the players in the A side have had a flirtation with national side in the past few seasons.
Record-breaking batsman Hamilton Masakadza will lead the Zimbabwe A players who have national team caps. Masakadza, who became the youngest ever player to score a century on his Test debut, will return to Zimbabwe cricket on completion of his studies at Free State University in South Africa in November.
Others who have played for the national team are all-rounder Gavin Ewing, batsman Barney Rogers, wicketkeeper and batsman Charles Coventry and pace bowlers Mutendera, Blessing Mahwire and Waddington Mwayenga.
Zimbabwe A players who have previously been called up to the national team but did not play are fast bowlers Campbell McMillan and Amos Maungwa, all-rounders Piet Rinke and Jordane Nicolle and young spin bowler Alexander Cremer.
It is very important that selectors spread their wings and pick these promising players for the England series. With Zimbabwe still trying to find its feet on the international stage in the absence of the dissenting players, the available pool of players needs to be put to test and gain vital experience against top opposition.
Zimbabwe A squad:
Hamilton Masakadza, Barney Rogers, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Tafadzwa Mufambisi, Waddington Mwayenga, Jordane Nicolle, Alexander Cremer, Brian Mlambo, Wisdom Siziba, Charles Coventry, Gavin Ewing, Chris Mpofu, Keith Dabengwa, Ryan Bennett, Blessing Mahwire, Stephen Wright, Allen Mwayenga, Innocent Chinyoka, Campbell McMillan, Hilton Matanga, Amos Maungwa, David Mutendera, Eric Chauluka.