Zim staring down the barrel

HARARE - If the three ODIs between the West Indies and Zimbabwe were disappointing, the two T20 internationals were soul-destroying.

 We have to understand that Zimbabwe were always going to be up against it for two reasons.

 The first being that Zimbabwe have had no international cricket for a year.

 And the second being that the West Indies are the current world champions of this form of cricket. And despite losing 5-0 to Australia in the ODI series, they bounced back to win the one-off T20 international at the end of the tour.

 The biggest problem that Zimbabwe have had throughout the tour is that the top order have let the team down badly, and the likes of Craig Ervine and Malcolm Waller have had to re build the innings, as well as look to up the run rate.

 Vusi Sibanda and Hamilton Masakadza have been the only two batsmen to reach 50 in the second ODI and the second T20 international respectively. While the likes of Chamu Chibhabha, Tino Mawoyo, and in particular Brendan Taylor, have been found wanting.

 Sadly, Taylor has been guilty of giving his wicket away every time he has gone out to bat.

 The captain seems to have lost his rich vein of form from the BPL and seems to be very low on confidence as well.

 So, how does Taylor get his confidence back, and, how does the normally reliable captain get himself back into form ahead of the two Test matches?

 Zimbabwe have one final chance to find some sort of form and regain some much needed confidence before engaging the West Indies in two Test matches.

 Already the nay sayers and pundits are rubbing their hands together in the anticipation of both Tests lasting five days, instead of the full 10 days, which would be a repeat of 2005, when Zimbabwe played South Africa in a two Test match series and lost the first Test inside two days in Cape Town and the second in side three days at Centurion.

 The dose was repeated in August that same year when New Zealand also won both Test matches in side five days at Harare Sports Club and Queens Sports Club respectively, causing Zimbabwe to withdraw from the Test arena for seven long years.

 If The West Indies were to beat Zimbabwe in the same way, the international fraternity may not be as sympathetic towards Zimbabwe anymore.

 The truth is that most of the major cricketing nations have been reasonably gentle and understanding towards Zimbabwe, constantly reminding the critics that Zimbabwe are undergoing changes and that they are going through a re building period.

 The critics on the other hand, will answer with an angry retort, asking how long does it take for a team to rebuild, given the fact that 85% of the team have been playing international cricket since 2004, regardless of the breaks in between matches.

 Questions will be asked such as how is it that some players have played anything between 70 up to 200 ODIs, and average less than 30 with pretty ordinary strike rates?

 Do we maybe have to conceive that these players simply aren't good enough to be playing international cricket? Please bear in mind that these are only questions and not statements.

 So, the three day warm-up match starting on Thursday will hopefully allow Zimbabwe to iron out some of the problems that have plagued the team up to now.

 We have already alluded to the fact that the entire top three need to score runs and big runs as well in order to get into some sort of shape.

 Starts won't do. Not if you are going to be playing against a side which has a lengthy batting order, and a powerful bowling attack.

 Another potential challenge Zimbabwe may face is the quality of the opposition they will be playing before the Test series.

 Their one-day warm-up match was played against a very moderate university XI, which clearly showed when they met the West Indies in the first ODI.

 The seamers will also have to adjust accordingly and give everything they possibly can when running in to bowl.

 Slower balls just won't do at Test level.

 The question is, will the seamers be able to dig deep in the Tests and find that extra bit of pace and aggression that was clearly lacking throughout the ODIs and T20 internationals? - Dean du Plessis

*Leading Zimbabwean cricket writer and broadcaster Dean du Plessis, who was born blind, is a Daily News on Sunday columnist and regular contributor to the Daily News. He can be contacted by e-mail: dean.duplessis77@gmail.com, or Skype: dean.du.plessis31.

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