ZIMBABWE’S heavy innings defeat to Bangladesh in the only Test this week, hardly a month after making Sri Lanka dig deep for a series win in Harare, has once again exposed entrenched institutional problems that cannot be camouflaged by an infrequent win or competitive match here and there.
After receiving plaudits for the selections of opening batsman Kevin Kasuza and pace bowler Victor Nyauchi against the Sri Lankans, with both impressing in their debut series, Zimbabwe’s selection panel has come under renewed pressure over the future of multiple-capped players who have not proved their worth to the side over a sustained period.
While there is broad consensus that Zimbabwe must overhaul its selection policy and discard for good tried-and-failed players, notwithstanding any records of theirs outside the international arena, who should replace them is a question of great significance going forward.
Uncapped teenage sensation Wesley Madhevere, fresh from the Under-19 World Cup in South Africa, has been flown to the sub-continent to face Bangladesh in the white-ball leg of the tour.
But former Zimbabwe coach Stephen Mangongo reckons the young players are not yet ripe to make the step up to international cricket due to a feeble foundation. “It’s too big a jump from a weak Under-19 level straight to brutal international cricket,” Mangongo told IndependentSport this week.
“We don’t play enough hardcore cricket at age-groups level, neither have the players played a good enough standard at club level to prove themselves. You look at your (Tatenda) Taibus, (Hamilton) Masakadzas. They played real tough club cricket at the age of 15 against the likes of Grant Flower, Eddo Brandes, and got hardened. Nothing of that sort exists now. Therefore, your talented kids these days — the Madheveres, (Milton) Shumbas, (Dion) Myers — at least need to play some List ‘A’ and Zimbabwe ‘A’ games. The danger is if you expose talented youngsters early at the highest level and they fail, they can be traumatised and lose confidence completely. There are many subtle issues you consider before throwing talented youths into the deep end. Look at those Indian kids like (Rishabh) Pant, they have already played IPL as part of blooding them into international cricket.”
While recent Under-19 graduates are being groomed, Zimbabwe, according to Mangongo, needs to bring back several young gifted players who are better equipped for the step-up, but are presently not part of the system.
“Before you know it, there will be hot competition for national team jerseys,” said Mangongo.
“You have guys like Kundai Matigimu, who was training with Titans in South Africa, a former Under-19 fast bowler who hits late 130s per hour easily. To me this bloke should be the opening bowler for Zimbabwe right now. Then you have the likes of Ryan Murray, Jeremy Ives, Liam Roche, Brad Evans, Nick Welch, Tendai Maruma, Tafadzwa Tsiga, Innocent Kaia, just to mention a few Zim boys in South Africa, UK, Australia and New Zealand. You can actually form a team of Zimbabwe from Under-25 boys scattered across the globe.
The question is do they have confidence in ZC that they will create a conducive environment and fair career path for them? Secondly, does ZC have the plan to even try to bring these boys back? Now, you get these boys, and you create tough competition with players already here for places in the national squad. A national team is as good as its competition for places. That’s the way to go. Once there are no quality assurance programmes and career paths for your youths, you’re doomed. You’ve got to invest heavily in your youths.” — Staff Writer.