Zim cric needs ‘do as I do’ captain

Chamu-Chibhabha-1.jpg

Zimbabwe's batsman Chamunorwa Chibhabha plays a shot as wicket keeper Sarfraz Ahmed looks on during the final game of a three ODI cricket matches between Zimbabwe and Pakistan at the Harare Sports Club on October 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO / JEKESAI NJIKIZANA (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Enock Muchinjo

SEAN Williams is shoo-in for Zimbabwe’s Test captaincy, but Chamu Chibhabha has to step up his personal game a great deal to justify his appointment as white-ball skipper, former national team coach Stephen Mangongo has opined.

The 33-year-old batsman, Williams was this week named new substantive captain of Zimbabwe in the five-day format with age-mate Chibhabha being handed the interim role of leading the side in the shorter versions.

While Williams’ appointment was generally well received within the Zimbabwean cricketing circles, question marks have been raised over the choice of Chibhabha, who in recent years has failed to command a regular place in the team due to unsatisfactory form.

In the two formats he has been put in charge, Chibhabha last played for Zimbabwe in July 2018 (ODI) and October 2018 (Twenty20).A batsman who frequently bowls, the right-hander has a modest batting average of 23.65 in 103 ODIs.

“Zimbabwe being small boys amongst cricketing powerhouses like India, Australia, England and South Africa — we do not have the luxury of a mediocre team leader in terms of captaincy,” Mangongo told IndependentSport this week.

“The captain has to lead from the front so that he can inspire his troops. Therefore Sean Williams has the experience and performances behind him. Zimbabwe needs the ‘do as I do captain’. Look way back from the leadership of Duncan Fletcher, Dave Houghton, Andy Flower, Heath Streak, Tatenda Taibu, Brendan Taylor.

Those were bright sparkle moments because those guys led from the front in terms of performances. We have a very challenging scenario whereby a really nice gentleman, Chamu Chibhabha, has been thrust into the white-ball captaincy even though he has not represented Zimbabwe for nearly a year, because of performance. His average of 23.00 in over 100 ODIs does not say a lot. He will have to up his game to make the starting line-up, unlike in tennis where you can have a non-playing captain.”

Mangongo placed heavy emphasis on his point that a badly performing captain has greater negative influence on lesser international teams like Zimbabwe, because of a wafer-thin roster of genuine match-winners and capable team leaders who can step up to fill the void created by a struggling skipper.

“Tim Paine in Australia can be a mediocre player, but still be a leader, simply because the Australia team is full of serious operators and machines that nullify the significance of a captain’s own performance,” Mangongo said. “In our scenario, definitely the captain would be scrutinised, to see if his performance has ripple effect on his teammates.”

A lynchpin of cricket development in Zimbabwe, who has worked in different capacities at various levels of the game for over three decades, Mangongo said he preferred a younger limited-overs captain with room to grow into the role — and build a future.

“You would have thought that the cricketing think-tanks would be having the foresight of actually bringing a younger captain to then negotiate through the rigorous (2023) World Cup terrain to (host) India with vigour and young energy at the forefront as captain,” he said.

The Zimbabwe board, meanwhile, also overhauled the national selection panel this week, with former national team fast bowler David Mutendera taking over as convener from Walter Chawaguta. The other members of the new panel are former internationals Prosper Utseya and Gavin Ewing alongside successful Zimbabwean domestic cricket coach Shepherd Makunura.

Zimbabwe will host Sri Lanka for two Test matches in Harare this month.

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