What will the Prodigal sons offer?

HARARE - Last week the news broke that former players, Craig Ervine and Greg Lamb had made themselves available for national team selection, and in so doing, plunged the emotions of fans, current players, and administrators into complete turmoil.

The first thought that came to mind was why would these two players suddenly want to come back into contention after making it abundantly clear that they had moved on to greener pastures?

Of course, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that we are approaching the World Cup in a couple of months’ time.

A free trip to Australia, a bit of sightseeing and a couple of ODIs, with guarantied match fees would want to make a great deal of players want to come out of retirement to don the red shirt again.

In 2002, Murray Goodwin hinted at an international return after calling it quits two years previously, and although the then Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) were overjoyed at the prospect of having such a fine player back, Goodwin's demands were preposterous to say the least.

In the 2011 World Cup, Sean Ervine, Craig's older brother also made himself available for selection, before backing out at the 59th minute of the 11th hour, after going on a pre-season tour to the West Indies with his county Hampshire, who no doubt managed to convince the hard hitting allrounder that he would be better off playing county cricket.

It has since emerged that Stuart Matsikenyeri has also decided to come out of retirement and join Ervine and Lamb.

If selected, Ervine, Lamb and Matsikenyeri may very well become the three musketeers of Zimbabwe cricket, who came back, not for the prospect of playing a World Cup, but because they feel they can still make a difference at both national level, and especially franchise level, which has fallen by the wayside.

Surely these players would have thought it through long and hard before making any rush decisions?

What would they gain by making themselves available to represent their country with the knowledge that nobody will, or at least should be picked because of what they had done in the past?

All three players have been in the system for a number of years.

They have experienced the ups and downs of the game in this country.

They would also be aware that national coach Steve Mangongo and convenor of selectors Givemore Makoni would more than likely turn to them as a last resort when picking the final team to tour Bangladesh, and to go to the World Cup, early next year.

The timing of their return may be a little iffy, but they would have consulted a number of wise old heads who would have advised them and counselled them in order to be very sure about their final question.

Given the rocky situation the sport currently finds itself in, scepticism, doubt, and any other feeling of apprehension is very normal, but instead of being divided over the matter, togetherness is what we need.

Yes, all these three players are vastly experienced, and in their own way have contributed towards the team's success.

However, national coach Steve Mangongo quite rightly made it very clear that nobody will be picked for any other reason other than current form.

So, they will somehow have to find some game time in order to stand a chance of being selected.

There is also absolutely no doubt that their return would bolster the middle and lower order of the team, and will also intensify the competition for places in the team, as well as strengthen the domestic system.

When having a look at their statistics, Craig Ervine is probably the pick of the lot, especially when having a look at his ODI record.

Player stats

Craig Ervine

The 29-year-old, left hand middle order batsman has played four Tests scoring 174 runs in the process. He has a high score, 49, at an average of 29.00.

ODIS played, 25, runs scored, 702, highest score of 85 with an average of 35.10 with five half centuries, and a strike rate of 77.65.

Ervine has also played 34 T20 matches, scoring 558 runs in total with a highest score of 71, with an acceptable average of 25.36 with two half centuries, and a healthy strike rate of 112.50.

Greg Lamb

The 33-year-old only has one Test match against his name with a highest score of 39 at an average of 23.00.

Lamb has also represented the country in 15 ODIs, scoring 197 runs, with a highest score of 37, at a below par average of 17.90, with a dismal strike rate of 51.70.

Lamb does however have the added advantage of being an allrounder, and has been responsible for a number of crucial dismissals.

Stuart Matsikenyeri

The 31-year-old right-handed batsman has been around for a number of years, making his international debut way back in 2002 in the ODI series against Pakistan in Bulawayo.

He is dynamic in the sense that he is capable of opening the batting and scoring runs freely and quickly, as well as slotting in the middle order, and rotating the strike in the middle overs.

He has played eight Test matches, scoring 351 runs with a highest score of 57 at an average of 23.40 with two half centuries.

He has played in 112 ODIS, scoring 2205 runs with a highest score of 90, at an average of 22.05, with 13 half centuries, at a strike rate of 72.31.

He has also played in 62 T20 matches, scoring 996 runs with a highest score of 89 at an average of 19.52 with six centuries, and a surprisingly low strike rate of 92.68.

These of course are just statistics and figures, and their fate lies firmly in the hands of the powers that be.

However, one hopes that should they perform at franchise level, they too would be included in the various squads.

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