When will they ever learn?

HARARE - Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) yesterday named their 15-man squad for the 2015 addition of the ICC World Cup which will be hosted by Australia and New Zealand in just over a month's time.

After the recent debacle in Bangladesh, nobody knew what to expect as we hold our breaths in anticipation.

Events took a slight turn for the better when a new coach was announced, but although the toxic twins, Stephen Mangongo and Givemore Makoni had been separated, the head of the very poisonous serpent still remained despite a number of horror stories the board were subjected to.

It was extremely sad and hugely disappointing to then hear Mangongo immediately reach for the race card.

Not the race card we all enjoyed when trying to pick a winner at Borrowdale Park race course, but the age old race card that is used when people don't get their way and have been dealt with for the love of the game, and the forward progression of the nation.

Personally, I hate using myself as an example, but sometimes, there is no other way to explain a situation.

I myself could have spouted nonsense if I really wanted to.

I could have said that the reason I am still struggling to be a full time cricket journalist is because of me being blind. Or because of me being white, I could have said that the reason I am still struggling to be a full-time cricket journalist is because I am blind and white.

Would these childish and immature statements of mine been true? Well, that is up to you the reader to decide.

But would they have changed anything if indeed I had sunk to such disgusting levels? Of course not.

The trickling of followers I do have would have wrinkled their noses, as if they had smelt a decaying animal, and turned their backs on me with disgust and rightly so.

Wallowing in self-pity will only make you a weaker human being than you already are.

A chapter has finished, and although the script wasn't to everybody's liking, we have a very important event to focus on.

This will be Zimbabwe's ninth World Cup appearance, and recent statistics will tell you that the team will be going into the tournament on an all-time low.

The recent battering and bruising at the hands of Bangladesh, as well as the internal turmoil which has plagued the sport in this country will undoubtedly weigh heavily on the players, but newly appointed coach Dav Whatmore is a positive person by nature.

Those who have followed Whatmore's progress over the last two decades, will know how he transformed Sri Lanka from a bunch of talented but highly unpredictable group of players, to a World Cup winning team in a very short space of time.

Some, however, may argue that like most things in life, every player and coach has a shelf life.

Whatmore was wanted property and rightly so from the mid-90s to the mid-2000s.

In that time, he not only masterminded Sri Lanka's World Cup victory in 1996, but he also improved their track record away from home, especially in the longer version of the game.

He had a good stint with Bangladesh, and the improvement was noticeable as the Tigers started to express themselves more freely with the bat in particular.

Whatmore then had a stint with Pakistan who ironically lost to the then Andrew Waller coached Zimbabwe at Harare Sports Club back in 2013.

All of these are just statistics, however, and though some may query the appointment of Dav Whatmore, simply due to the fact that all his achievements were a number of years ago, his experience of working with teams is vast.

He is a hive of information and the players will be able to tap into his knowledge about the playing conditions of Australia and New Zealand, as well as the opposition, and because of his experience, Whatmore may very well be the cure to the psychological block that has bedevilled the team for so many years.

As most of us now know, the squad was announced yesterday, and despite the state of affairs the excitement on social media was almost at fever pitch.

So much so, that approximately 15 minutes before the scheduled time of announcement, one of the players was unable to contain his excitement any longer and tweeted:

"I have just heard some bloody awsome news!!".

And why not? A World Cup is a four year event, and for some a once in a lifetime event, so one can fully understand the exuberance of a player who has been in and out of the national team more times than he would care to remember.

The make-up of the squad is an interesting one in the sense that two players got in at the skin of their teeth on the account of one good performance against Canada, a team who doesn't even have one day international status.

This is however a bit of a double edged sword.

Had these two players, both vastly experienced players not performed, we would have had our daggers out and promptly declared them unworthy of representing the national team again.

It's just a pity that the opposition wasn't a bit stronger, and that they could have played more than one game before they were selected, but you can only play against the team you are given, and that is no fault of the player.

Fans will no doubt be happy to see the welcome return of Sean Williams who will bolster the middle order considerably, as well as add variation to the bowling attack with his left-arm spin, while veterans Stuart Matsikenyeri and allrounder Chamu Chibhabha find themselves in the squad of 15 as well.

In essence Zimbabwe  have the all-rounder spot well and truly covered, given the fact that Chamu Chibhabha, all be it a reluctant bowler, Sean Williams, Solomon Mire, and Elton Chigumbura are capable of scoring runs and taking crucial wickets at important times.

The inclusion of both Matsikinyeri and Chibhabha have sparked mixed emotions, comments and a lot of questions.

Has Chibhabha been picked purely because of a one off knock of 155 against Canada a day before the team was announced?

There is no doubt that his innings was a delight to watch, but a quick glance at his domestic 50 over scores will tell you that something is terribly amiss.

To date, his scores this season in the one-day tournament have been 0 ,10, and 7. Last season saw him amassing scores of 43, 21, 13, 17, 9 and 36, giving him a total of 139 runs at an average of 23.

When combining last season and the current season's runs scored by Chibhabha, you will find that he has scored 156 runs in nine innings at an average of 17 with a highest score of 43, and when keeping in mind that his last three scores at domestic level were 0, 10, and 17 with a deplorable strike rate of 55, one begs the question.

How does one good innings against a team who don't even have ODI status force the selectors to pick a player who this season has averaged just over five runs per innings?

The second bone of contention is the inclusion of Stuart Matsikenyeri, Solomon Mire and Craig Ervine.

These three players have been plying their trade beyond our borders, and haven't played any league cricket whatsoever.

Matsikenyeri is currently working at a well-known school in Johannesburg, Mire plays grade cricket in Australia, and Ervine has been playing cricket in Ireland for the last two years.

When these three have concluded their obligations in the World Cup, will they simply go back to their respective clubs and school, and continue where they left off after they received their handsome pay cheque?

Can we as a nation be guaranteed that we won't lose them after the World Cup?

Granted, it is nice to see a change, and both Matsikinyeri and Ervine have a lot of game time between the two of them, while Mire showed glimpses of becoming a genuine allrounder in Bangladesh.

But what message are the selectors sending to those who stay in the country and try their level best, only to be ignored?

The third area of great concern is the inclusion of Prosper Utseya.

The argument will probably be that his experience will be called upon in an important event such as the World Cup, but Utseya has just started bowling again after he was forced to adjust his action.

Now, instead of bowling his customary off breaks, he has changed to arbitrary medium pacers, with no variation whatsoever.

He will be cannon fodder to the opposition, and it is hard to imagine that a man of Dav Whatmore's calibre would even think of considering such an inclusion, which must surely mean that the newly appointed coach has already had a taste of the convener of selectors stamping his authority on the matter.

Several teams have clicks, and Zimbabwe is no exception.

Several of the senior players who played with Prosper from his school days up to the present, would undoubtedly have ganged up with the convener on this matter, and one can only wonder how Whatmore will use him.

This is an absolute shambles, when considering that Zimbabwe have a relatively big pool of spinners to choose from.

John Nyumbu, Natsai M’Shangwe, Wellington Masakadza and Tinotenda Mutombodzi have given everything and more to their respective franchises and to the A side, and based on the fact that Utseya, the convener of selectors and some of the senior players are on friendly terms, somebody had to miss out regardless of the form he had.

Until such time people who truly understand the game don't run it, it is hard to see a winning and positive way forward for this team.

Comments (3)

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CARTRIDGE GALLERY - 8 January 2015

Indeed, Dean you are right on the toxic twins. If you take a closer look at the teams representing Zimbabwe, they are if not all of them from Takashinga a club that is the brains of the twins. While we laud the work they did on Takashinga, i believe they are muscling in the players from that club becoz of their positions. Mr. Manase, you came into the office with one eye closed unless you are part of the three toxic muskerteerz

Cricket Lover - 8 January 2015

That is a brilliant piece of analysis Dean. We need thinkers and analysts of your calibre.

Hwezhahwezha - 9 January 2015

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