Zim's only real chance in the Caribbean

HARARE - When it was confirmed that Zimbabwe was going to tour the West Indies, the first question that came to mind was, in which form would Zimbabwe possibly be able to beat the West Indies?

The answer that immediately sprung to mind was the two Twenty20 matches, but, that theory was dealt a blow by the fact that the West Indies are the current world champions in that format.

Playing against the West Indies is always an exciting affair, because you never know which team you will be playing on the day.

Yes, the names are all familiar, but, you never know what frame of mind the team is in when they take to the field.

Zimbabwe and West Indies contests have been pretty interesting, bordering on bizarre.

In the first few encounters, Zimbabwe were no match and were badly outplayed, but, to be fair, these games were played in the eighties and early nineties, and many teams who were considerably stronger and more experienced than the combination of lawyers, game ranchers and a chicken farmer, were given the same treatment as Zimbabwe.

But the year 2000 saw Zimbabwe beat the West Indies for the first time in their international career when they beat them not once, but on three occasions in a triangular series in England.

All of these games were 50-over contests, as the dreaded T20 version was still unheard of in those days.

The West Indies were captained by a quiet, but well-respected Jimmy Adams, and he also had a wealth of experience around him, including the great Brian Charles Lara.

The two teams then started playing each other on a more regular basis, and the results were evenly balanced, comparing to the earlier encounters.

National bowling coach and former captain Heath Streak had a role to play in more than one Zimbabwean victory, and the game that he and many cricket lovers will remember for many years to come was a low scoring affair at the Sydney Cricket Ground back in January 2001, when Zimbabwe defended a total of 135 runs.

Streak’s contribution was a hard-fought 45 with the bat, and a bowling spell of eight overs, four maidens, four wickets at a cost of just eight runs.

No prices for guessing who the man-of-the-match was in that particular game.

But that was a long time ago, and both teams have had their fair share of troubles both on and off the field.

Both teams have talented players who are capable of competing against the world’s very best, but, they are just as capable of pushing the self-destruct button and playing really poorly, which is what may cause Zimbabwe to sneak in a win or two.

Although the West Indies are the T20 world champions, this is the area that Zimbabwe have a very real chance of causing an upset.

Zimbabwe are blessed with a number of good spinners who are very good at bowling tight overs, which is why Graeme Cremer should have been a part of the T20 squad as well.

Most of the West Indies batsmen find the going tough against spinners, and, they also tend to look to hit boundaries and are often guilty of not rotating the strike.

Zimbabwe need to be sharp and alert in the field, and be a where to the fact that the West Indies batsmen prefer dealing in boundaries.

If the fielders maintain pressure, it is almost certain that the explosive but vulnerable batting line up will buckle under the pressure.

This however doesn’t mean that the home side aren’t a good team.

After all, they are the world champions in this form of the game, but, this is the one and to be fair, probably only area that Zimbabwe do stand a chance of causing an upset. - Dean Du Plessis


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