Zim Cricket Team: Serious Soul-searching Required

THE Zimbabwe cricket team takes on Sri Lanka in the fourth ODI at Harare Sports today hoping to salvage consolation win after the tourists clinched the series on Monday by taking an unassailable 3-0 lead.


The final ODI is on Sunday.
In the first match Zimbabwe were beaten by six wickets, then  hammered by nine wickets in the second and lost a rare thriller by five runs in the third. Several things have emerged from the first three matches.

Inexperience
This can longer be the case. Tatenda Taibu, the former skipper, played his 100th ODI in the third match on Monday. The good thing about Taibu is that his experience shows. He is responsible, carries the burden with maturity and his work ethics are unmatched and unfortunately not backed up by the rest of the team.
The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of his teammates, who can no longer be described as inexperienced in terms of games played. There is no purpose and desire to lead from the front by other senior batsmen in the team. It was refreshing though on Monday to witness Hamilton Masakadza play that role. With the bowlers having reduced Sri Lanka to 127-7 in the allotted 28 overs due to a rain-delayed start, Masakadza’s remarkable 77 was the kind of innings we all know he is capable of producing; a swashbuckling dominance at the wicket — the kind of form he should be producing more regularly. Zimbabwe’s problem is that players who are supposed to assume the leading role have been neglecting their duty.
There is a tendency of individuality that has long inhabited the team;  “If I score 30 runs or more, it doesn’t matter if I get out, I will be assured of a place in the next match”, seems to be mindset.
The players have to understand their responsibility in the side at different junctures of the game. If for instance, you get in a position where you are now the key man, there is need to consolidate that role and play up to the end. We have too often witnessed good innings going to waste because players failed to put the needs of the team first, resulting in defeat.

Captaincy
Prosper Utseya’s captaincy has not been without ready critics ever since he took over. his leadership in the middle has come under the tightest scrutiny in this series, his decision to bat first in the second ODI being the main highlight. He defended his decision with assurance after the match. But that doesn’t mask the fact that batting on a damp track where the ball would obviously not come to the bat as the batsmen would want, thus favouring the seamers, was a flawed decision. He got it right in the third ODI and elected to field, with the Zimbabwe bowlers bowling sufficiently well enough to restrict Sri Lanka to the 127-7 in 28 overs. It was a thrilling end, but in the greater scheme of things, Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene’s remarks at the end of the match that he never at any point felt they would lose the match shows that Zimbabwe cannot take the closeness of that match as victory.
There should be a thorough and honest assessment of the captaincy after this series.

Coaching
The appointment of Douglas Hondo as assistant coach was a bolt from the blue. At only 29 and not having exactly set the stage alight in his nine Tests and 56 ODIs, he really should be competing for a place in the side, let alone coaching anyone. He still needs to be coached himself. He might have the qualifications, but cricket coaching is hardly bookish.  With Walter Chawaguta, another raw recruit, as head coach, Zimbabwe doesn’t seem to have the right combination to properly guide this team.

Selection
Is there a deliberate policy to fill the team with players from Takashinga? If Chamu Chibhabha, a top-order batsman, can’t be trusted with batting in the top three when chasing down a realistic target (where aggression is required), why have him in the team at all? After all, he is said to be more comfortable facing up to pace than spin.
There is need to give selectors autonomy on all selection issues because as it is, it doesn’t seem to be the case.

Spin factor
True, Like Chawaguta admitted, Zimbabwe were always expected to struggle against the spin wizard, Muttiah Muralitharan and new sensation Ajantha Mendis. But for an international side, Zimbabwe, are still expected to have some answers to such top-class bowlers, if they are to be taken seriously. That is the sort of bowling that will await them if they intend to play regularly at this level again. Instead of having a row assistant coach, perhaps, it makes a lot of sense to rope in a team of specialist coaches (bowling coach, spin coach, fielding coach, batting coach) to deal with special cases like the Murali-Mendis hazard.

 

By Enock Muchinjo

Top