Can we possibly play any worse?

HARARE - It is very hard to come up with acceptable excuses when you see a side play as badly as Zimbabwe did in their opening encounter of the ICC World Twenty20 against Sri Lanka on Tuesday.

The first question that needs to be asked is, did Brendan Taylor make the right choice by bowling first?

But in all honesty, it would have made very little difference whether Zimbabwe had batted or bowled first.

Both Brian Vitori and Kyle Jarvis were reasonably impressive up front as Jarvis in particular got the ball to move away nicely as well as getting the odd delivery to nip back into the opening batsmen.

But Sri Lanka were equal to the task as they probably realised that the Zimbabwean attack would only be able to maintain pressure for a short period of time before losing focus, which is exactly what Chris Mpofu and Elton Chigumbura did when they were introduced.

It is always very disappointing when one has to keep on talking about the same problems and the team making the same old mistakes when they are in the field, but the reality is that the fielding is still Zimbabwe’s biggest let down.

You may be able to have an ounce of understanding when high catches are dropped because it is very difficult for fielders to see the ball when it comes out of the floodlights so to speak.

We must remember that day-night cricket is still not played at senior level in this country and probably won’t be for some time to come, but what really hurt was the appalling ground fielding.

The basics of getting your body in the way and stopping the ball from going for four was not evident and these mistakes proved to be very costly as Sri Lanka recovered from 82-3 to 182-4 at the completion of their innings.

Graeme Cremer and Prosper Utseya have to be commended for some decent bowling in the middle overs with Cremer taking 1-27 and Utseya ending with tidy figures of 0-25.

But the hard working but unpredictable Chris Mpofu was very disappointing as he conceded 0-49 in three overs.

Hamilton Masakadza and Vusi Sibanda were up against it from the start and even though they added a solid 37 for the first wicket, they were always well behind the required rate of nine runs per over.

The opposition are very aware that Zimbabwe have had major problems when facing spin bowlers, which has always been a little strange, given the fact that the country is blessed with a number of quality spinners and Zimbabwe would in turn have been very aware of the mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis but little did they know what they were in for.

Mendis is a magician, there is no doubting that. His remarkable ability to spin the ball both ways with out the slightest hint has baffled many quality players around the world, but even so, Zimbabwe have full access to video footage and would surely have studied Mendis closely.

When watching an allround performance that was as poor as Zimbabwe’s was against Sri Lanka, it is easy to understand why Ireland are asking probing questions as to why they aren’t playing more international cricket against quality teams because in all fairness, they have been playing consistently better cricket than Zimbabwe for some time.

What is also frustrating to note is that the age old problem of batsmen getting starts and then getting out is still a major problem in the team.

So in short, there is one word that comes to mind and that word is WHY?

Why has Zimbabwe gone from being one of the world’s best fielding units to quite possibly the world’s worst fielding sides in top class cricket?

We cannot use the excuse of inexperience when it comes to fielding because you don’t need experience to stop a ball from crossing the boundary.

Ground fielding and ball catching is something that has been a culture of Zimbabwean cricket for decades and in some ways, it has been the fielding of Zimbabwean teams over years gone by that has earned the respect of major cricketing countries.

Why is it that Zimbabwe still struggle to play spin bowling when we have a number of decent off spinners, leg spinners and left arm spinners in the franchise system?

Who is really to blame? Who is not doing their job properly?

Is it the players who are not putting in the hard work that eventually corrects the mistakes that occur so regularly?

Or is it the coaching staff as well as the analysts who are not doing their respective jobs correctly?

Has the time come for a complete change in the coaching staff?

Would that really be the answer? Having said that, it is very hard not to notice the likes of Grant Flower who gives his undivided attention and time to the entire team and not only the batsmen.

These are questions that need to be answered by both players and coaches.

Brendan Taylor was as honest as always at the match presentation saying “We are a better side than this and we need to reflect and have a look in the mirror and see where we went wrong and how we will improve”.

But Zimbabwe have yet another tough assignment when they take on a rampant South African side today and it would be hard to imagine a turnaround in fortune in such a short time. - Dean du Plessis


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