HomeSportSave the boys from further humiliation

Save the boys from further humiliation

THERE can’t be any doubt at all that in addition to wanting the England cricket team to tour Zimbabwe for the financial gains, Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC)’s leadership also hoped the inexperienced national team would pull off some i

mpressive surprises.

The same hope was shared by Zimbabwe captain Tatenda Taibu, who came out in the media during the days preceding the four One Day matches saying he was confident of victory.

Zimbabwe coach Phil Simmons had also expressed hope for better results before saying after the whitewash that the young guys were not yet up to scratch.

It is understandable that ZC chairman Peter Chingoka, Taibu and all the others currently involved in national cricket administration must hope and pray for some reprieve from the spate of defeats the team has suffered.

Zimbabwe risks expulsion from the lucrative group of Test playing nations if the national team’s performance continues like this.

England captain Michael Vaughan joined Sri Lanka captain Marvan Atapattu in bemoaning the lack of competition from Zimbabwe during their tours here. It is likely that the other Test playing nations would not enjoy smashing Zimbabwe without facing a realistic challenge.

There is one likely suggestion to come from the Test playing nations: that Zimbabwe should be kicked out of the elite group.

As the England tour just proved, our national team lacks depth to compete at this level and would need several years to become a better side.

Previous Zimbabwe national cricket teams were admittedly never on top of the rankings in the Test playing group but would do well to beat sides such as England, especially when they were poor in some areas.

Zimbabwe lost the first match against England at Harare Sports Club by five wickets and anyone who watched it must admit that the visitors were committed to it, in good shape and simply too hot for our youngsters.

Zimbabwe went out to bat first and registered 195 runs all out. As usual, the scoreboard reflected an unpalatable scenario, with only two players, Elton Chigumbura and Dion Ebrahim, above 20 runs.

It was clear from then that England would cruise to a comfortable victory — especially given the inconsistency that characterises Zimbabwe’s bowling.

Tinashe Panyangara, who in the past had been touted as the team’s hope in bowling, failed to show during the tour by England.

The second match at Harare Sports Club saw Zimbabwe suffer their second heaviest defeat in one-day cricket when they lost by 161 runs. Again the simple basics of cricket were at play and it was pretty clear why the home team lost. Nothing at all to do with any mystery or luck, but the lack of skill and depth in the team.

The same goes for the third and fourth one-dayers played at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo, lost by the home team by eight wickets and 74 runs respectively.

Zimbabwe’s batting remains the team’s worst department as it failed to put up decent totals on the board. The batsmen’s footwork was sub-standard to say the least, and one wonders whether Simmons had looked at his batsmen in the nets before they walked to the crease.

But does he have any choice?

It was inevitable that the batting order would collapse once one of the openers had lost his wicket. Stuart Matsikenyeri, who looked the better batsman in the side, was however guilty of soft dismissals, while Mark Vermuelen, the oldest player in the team, continued with his laid back type of play and seemed not at all interested in the whole business. Dion Ebrahim, who emerged with the best batting average in the team, would not be playing one-day cricket if he was from any of the other Test playing countries. He scored 45 runs from 90 balls in the first ODI in Harare.

No coach would want such a mean or slow scoring batsman in his team!

The bowlers showed some promise, yes, but it was the spinners who took most of the wickets, while the seam attack was non-existent. Panyangara and Chris Mpofu bowled terribly in their second spells while back-ups Elton Chigumbura and Mluleki Nkala simply did charity work for England by donating runs.

It is difficult to comprehend how we should hope for light at the end of the tunnel or for an end in the near future to the humiliating defeats by the Zimbabwe team.

Looking at the team’s performances against England recently and even reflecting on the tour by Sri Lanka to Zimbabwe a couple of months ago, it must be clear that optimism and patriotism aside, the team has not shown significant improvement.

It is quite enjoyable to cast headlines all year round suggesting that the team is putting up spirited fighting or going down fighting.

Or to have sports journalists becoming propagandists always parroting the myth that the team is quickly improving.

A look at the statistics shows our team has fared no better in the latest matches against England compared to when they faced Sri Lanka here in April when Zimbabwe played its last Test matches.

Taibu is said to be the better batsman in the current team, and probably a beacon of hope. Now, Taibu’s batting average during the whitewash defeat was less than 30.

When Australia came here for three One-Dayers Taibu had an average of 20. Currently his batting average is 24,61.

Dion Ebrahim, one of the veteran batsmen in the team and looked to for a better performance, has an average of 21,43.

These statistics, which are emblematic of the team’s ability, show how we just can’t talk about an improvement.

The team is still going around a vicious cycle of poor performances and leaves for Bangladesh to resume Test cricket next month with a huge challenge of redeeming its image.

The hosts are most likely going to clinch their first ever Test victory!

We find ourselves at the centre of attention and controversy in the world of cricket due to the row between the ZC and 15 senior white players earlier this year, which culminated in them being fired.

The last seven months have been spent in debate over this issue and many people have offered their suggestions on how to bring back the glory days to national cricket.

Revelations in this paper last week showed some possibility of manipulation in the selection of the team — predominantly featuring players from Takashinga Cricket Club, whose chairman Stephen Mangongo is a national team selector.

Could such developments have been among the goals of the “integration programme” and a reason behind the fallout with the rebels?

For the sake of saving us from these humiliating defeats and a possible expulsion from the group of Test playing nations, it has to be stated once again that the ZC must sincerely work on bringing back the rebel players.

There is need for a probe into the selection process as well as allegations of extortion as part of efforts to revive the national team.

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