Open Letter To Zim Cricket Selectors

Dear Kenyon

IN these increasingly hard times in our country, who doesn’t need a retreat?

Greetings to you, chief selector, hoping that your first week in Bangladesh has been a calming one (yes, it’s a working trip and all, but you know what I mean!)

I also acknowledge that your “haven” is only Bangladesh — a country which, in the words of your team physio Amato Machikicho, has “serious overpopulation (and) the infrastructure on face value looks like nothing works”.

But if infrastructure or the size of the population can be used to rate a country, then ostensibly Zimbabwe will look like paradise until you experience the daily adversities the general folk have to go through to survive.

As I write to you, the three-day warm up match against the Bangladesh Cricket Board Academy is over and the first match of the tri-series begins tomorrow. It is a match whose significance cannot be overlooked because it is a longer version match and we are trying to get ourselves back into the Test arena.

I’m quite sure that the information that I’m going to relay to you will not take you by surprise. With the big egos in Zimbabwe cricket circles, I don’t doubt that some have openly questioned the credibility of your selection panel on the basis of cricket command.

As one of your less pleasant critics always points out: “What are two former rugby players doing on a national cricket selectors panel?”

Sure, you represented Zimbabwe at the 1987 Rugby World Cup and have over 10 Sables caps under your belt. Quite an enviable feat, Kenyon. Your colleague on the panel, Steyn Kombayi, reckons he was the best black rugby player of his era not to play for his country.

Then there is Vumi Moyo, who was only a small club player in Bulawayo before rising up the ladder, to everyone’s amazement. This leaves “old hands” Jackie du Preez as the only cricketer of note on the panel.

The legendary Du Preez played Test cricket for South Africa in the Rhodesian era, and is one of the finest cricketers this country has ever seen. But he too has not escaped disapproval.

Well, they say he doesn’t know the players that much, perhaps suggesting he is too nostalgic — quite understandable for a man who grew up in an era of numerous world-class cricketers from this country but now has to deal with this ordinary crop.

In all this, I have been reluctant to criticise you for a number of reasons, chief amongst them that I have never believed that you have total control on selection issues.

Again, I’m disinclined to go into the debate about your grasp of the game, and besides, you strike me as cool-headed and a rational selector and that is why you have survived this long in the volatile Zimbabwe Cricket setup.

You are a journalist’s delight, always available to provide quotable, insightful and balanced views on players and selection and I have to say you are one of the people I enjoy discussing cricket with.

However, having observed a series of blunders by your panel, especially with regards to blooding new players into the national side, I have to agree with your critics that as a panel you have been found wanting on far too many occasions.

I note with interest that you took two uncapped players, Malcolm Waller and Forster Mutizwa, on the Bangladesh tour which will be followed by a stopover in Kenya.

While they may prove to be wise selections, I still have qualms over your track record of failing to give new players enough time to prove their mettle. The whole idea of selecting rookies is not that they can stay rookies; they must settle into the team and start challenging the established players.

It shows much for a country’s development capacity when new players come into the side and not only produce match-winning performances, but actually stay in the side. Zimbabwe cries out for her own Duminy, Mendis or Siddle. We haven’t had such a player for a while and one gets the feeling that they are being suppressed.

 I’m not advocating  free rides into the national side; I’m simply saying guys must be given a fair chance.
In 2006 you plucked a skinny teenage spinner called Tafadzwa Kamungozi from the fringes and took him to the Champions Trophy. Soon he recoiled into obscurity.

Later that year you sent Tino Mawoyo, a future kingpin of the side if given a run, to Bangladesh. He was dropped after playing two games and scoring 24 runs. The whispers you hear from those responsible is that he didn’t perform on tour. No one else actually did!

Then the biggest shocker of them all: Friday Kasteni, an Eaglesvale High School student who had hardly played any cricket in the season, found himself on the touring party to the World Cup in the West Indies in 2007. The justification from you was that the boy must get a “feel” of the biggest stage. Initially, you said, you didn’t even intend to use him during the tournament!

Kasteni’s inclusion came at the expense of Hamilton Masakadza (thankfully, he seems to have put the heartbreak behind him). Fine, Masakadza was not enjoying the best of form, but surely there was someone more deserving waiting in the wings.

The World Cup is the biggest stage for any cricketer, or sportsperson, and selection must not be based on anything but MERIT. You have to earn it, I’m sure it was the same when you played in the Rugby World Cup, Kenyon. It’s unfair for anyone to be at the World Cup basing on mere “promise”.

As if that was insufficient, you dragged Johnson Marumisa to the Twenty20 World event in South Africa last year. He got no game time. Sri Lanka were here last November, and poor Marumisa was not anywhere near the “A” side that played them in the warm-ups. For crying out loud, where is the progression here guys?

Then you took Cephas Zhuwawo to Canada and Kenya in October amid excitement and hope. He got a few token games, and like the others before him, he was airbrushed out.

And then Regis Chakabva, one of Zimbabwe’s promising batsmen, any news on him?

That’s all for now, Kenyon, hope it will help you do an audit and bring back some sanity into selection.
Finally, pass my greetings to the guys. This is a crucial tour for Zimbabwe, we can ill-afford to disappoint. The cricketing world is watching.

Talk to you later.

INDEPENDENTSPORT VIEW WITH ENOCK MUCHINJO