Paying hefty prize for the madness of 10 years ago

HARARE - The most dire prediction has come to pass.

Zimbabwe’s cricket team has suffered series defeats on tour in Bangladesh in all three Tests and ODIs and are currently without a win on the trip with two 50-over games to spare. 

This is simply unacceptable, even by Zimbabwe’s own low standards.

How does a team which we used to dominate so ruthlessly, even in their own home conditions that seem to be so alien now, can turn the tables so dramatically like we are witnessing?

Let’s place the blame squarely where it belongs, and look no further than the disturbing events of 2004, when an entire team, in a moment of sheer madness, was jettisoned by the Zimbabwe Cricket board following a bitter contractual dispute.

When Bangladesh entered the Test arena, with their first overseas tour as a Test nation being here in 2001, they were clearly a talented bunch of cricketers – but not remotely close to win a series of any format, even against Zimbabwe.

The Bangladeshis were soundly and well beaten on their maiden tour here, losing both Tests quite heavily.  

And when Zimbabwe also toured the subcontinent later in 2001, they didn’t find it any harder either to negotiate through, despite the low-bouncing and spinning wickets that terrorise us these days to an extent that we look so utterly clueless and out of sorts.

The first Test was abandoned and declared a draw due to persistent rains, with Zimbabwe in total control, and heading for a massive win.

The second was comfortably won by eight wickets, with three Zimbabwean first-innings centurions the highlight of the game.

All three ODIs went the way of the Zimbabweans.

In 2004, just before the rebel saga, Bangladesh were to come to these shores again, for the second time as a Test nation – where again they were put in their place by a polished Zimbabwean side.

Zimbabwe won the first Test by 183 runs, and the second was drawn after Bulawayo was impounded by heavy rains on day 1, 2, and 4.

The ODI series delivered rare victory for Bangladesh, who won the third match after the first two were washed out. But Zimbabwe rallied from behind to seal the last two for a 3-1 series win. 

That would mark the end of the dominant era over the Tigers, to be replaced by the dire situation we have now.

That dominant trend was very likely never going to change any time soon, even to this day, had it not been for those player disturbances a decade ago.

You could argue that the Zimbabwe team then were not exactly world-beaters when pitted against the leading teams in the world, but one thing was certain – dominance over Bangladesh.

The Zimbabwean players, back then, had amassed the experience of consistently winning games against Bangladesh, in both home and away conditions.

It had become part of the team’s culture to do deliver those kind of results to any extent that even with the eventual retirement of some of the players of that era, there would have been systematic and gradual blooding of new players who would easily fit in that culture – a smooth and effective player transformation that guarantees continuity.

Under the wings and guidance of senior guys who would still be around, the new players would adapt into the system and learn to uphold that team culture. 

That culture was wiped out when an entire team was lost at the height of ego and collective insanity by the men in suits.

Suddenly, there was an entire new team of novices, with no one to learn from, abandoned and left exposed in a whole new world of international cricket.

With that went that proud team culture, because there was no one to learn from, no one to remind them that it’s not only unacceptable to be defeated by Bangladesh, but in the manner it has been happening. 

Due to that madness of 2004, the winning culture has been replaced with a losing culture.

Today, with look back at those events with great regret.

It’s a past those running the game want to forget, a past they will deny responsibility for, but a past we’ll continue to pay for unless we wake up and end the insanity.

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