Zim cricket's road to recovery

HARARE - Zimbabwe's participation in the 2012 edition of the ICC World Twenty20 was by far and away their most disappointing tournament ever!

Not so much from a result point of view but it was the lacklustre performance by the entire team that really disappointed the most.

Everybody knew that Zimbabwe would probably be the team to be sent packing because in all fairness, Sri Lanka and South Africa are probably the two favourite teams of the tournament.

Sri Lanka because of their home advantage and South Africa because of their form and ranking.

But what disappointed the entire cricket world was how Zimbabwe gave the distinct impression of rolling over and playing dead before the first ball was bowled.

We have already heard excuses as to why Zimbabwe played so poorly. Excuses such as the team are still developing and that we expect too much from them. Or, the last time that Zimbabwe played was back in February when they took on New Zealand.

All of these excuses are tired and baseless.

Even though most of the senior players are young in years, they have played a fair amount of international cricket against quality opposition which is why the age old excuse of not enough experience and game time is now wearing thin.

Looking at Ireland and Afghanistan, it was clear to see the commitment and dedication shown by both teams, despite the fact that they were on the receiving end.

Afghanistan for example found themselves down and out at 26-8 and yet, the tail end counter attacked very nicely.

Even though they were soundly beaten by England, the Afghans would have taken heart by their number eight batsman who took 16 runs off Graeme Swann and who wasn't afraid to take on the fast bowlers either.

Zimbabwe on the other hand looked unsettled with none of the lower order showing any intent to be positive, opting to rather play out the 20 overs with half-hearted poking and prodding at the ball instead of trying to be positive.

So why is it that fully professional cricketers continue to still play so inconsistently?

These are players who don't have the extra burdens and responsibilities of having to hold down another job.

When Zimbabwe started playing international cricket more regularly, the team consisted out of a bunch of gain hunters, tomato growers, lawyers and a big burly chicken farmer.

Yet, these none professionals were regarded as the best fielding side in the world, where as now, it is sad but true to admit that Zimbabwe find themselves languishing at the bottom of the pile.

When Zimbabwe won the Pran RFL triangular series earlier this year, they looked like a well-oiled machine.

They looked professional and confident and for once, their fielding looked sharp and alert.

But what is becoming more apparent is that whenever Zimbabwe go on tour, they fall apart at the seams and all the talent and potential they show at home comes to nothing.

Somehow, the powers that be, as well as the coaches will have to come up with ideas to ensure that when Zimbabwe go on tour, they will be able to handle themselves a lot better than the current team does when touring.

We also desperately have to address the issue of flat and unresponsive pitches we currently play on.

The grounds men have to start preparing certain pitches that have extra grass on and that will provide pace, bounce and carry for the fast bowlers which will also encourage positive stroke play from the batsmen.

There is no doubting that the road to recovery is a long one but a road that each and every cricket follower and lover will be following with interest and hope. -
Dean du Plessis

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