Zim only have themselves to blame

HARARE - The ongoing series between Zimbabwe and India concludes with the final Twenty20 international at Harare Sports Club today, and most will say that the series has gone as expected.

India took a clean sweep in the ODI series, and if Zimbabwe play the way they did on Friday, the Royal Stag trophy will also be added to India’s collection.

Friday’s Twenty20 match started off badly, and ended in abject misery, as the more experienced Indian team took full advantage of Zimbabwe’s lack of Twenty20 knowledge.

One of the biggest letdowns for the home side, was the extras they gave away.

Twenty five extras in total, which included a staggering 13 wides in India’s total of 178-5.

All the bowlers were at some stage guilty of adding to the extras column at some stage of the innings, and the fielding still seems to be very patchy.

At times the fielding side look committed and focused, but for some reason the focus fades away as the opposition’s innings gains momentum.

India were out of the starting blocks much quicker than Zimbabwe on Friday, the batsmen ran well between the wickets, and punished the bad ball without fail.

Hamilton Masakadza and Chamunorwa Chibhabha got off to a decent start, their opening stand of 55 should have laid the platform for the rest of the top and middle order to at least try and make a fist of it, if nothing else.

But, Zimbabwe’s age old downfall crept in yet again, and before they knew it, they had slumped from a potential match winning situation at 55-0 to a face saving 68-4, thanks to the continuous scourge, the left arm spinner.

Many articles have been written, many debates and theories have been had as to why the batsmen struggle to play left arm spin.

Zimbabwe have toured Bangladesh on several occasions with more or less the same nucleus of players, so one would think that they would have become used to, or at least found the slower pitches and variations of spinners easier to play by now.

Which brings us to another point. Why do we still continue to prepare lower and slower pitches back home?

The obvious answer would be that these pitches are prepared to suit our spinners, and, to a certain extent, that has worked.

When South Africa and Australia were here last year, their batsmen found the going tough on the lower and spin friendly pitches, and our spinners most certainly had the wood over several big names from both Australia and South Africa, the only problem that we had, was that the plan actually backfired badly on the team and those who opted for the spin friendly conditions, because our batsmen struggle to play spin bowling.

It soon became very obvious that the batsmen were suitably more comfortable with the bat coming onto the ball, as opposed to trying to manufacture shots, getting to the pitch of the ball, and another age old problem, trying to rotate the strike.

Isn’t it time to try and encourage our young and upcoming fast bowlers, as well as the present crop to run in and bend their backs and consistently bowl fast?

The only way we will encourage fast bowling as to start preparing pitches that assist fast bowling.

Wickets with more grass on to encourage the swing bowlers, such as Neville Madziva.

Hard and bouncy wickets to encourage Chris Mpofu to run in and hit the deck.

This in turn will also encourage batsmen to get off the backfoot, to try and get a decent stride in, and to play off the front foot.

There is a very good pitch at Harare Country Club, where both bowlers and batsmen could learn their trade, but sadly we tend to shy away from these challenges, often hiding behind the excuse that the pitch is deemed to dangerous to play on.

At present, India feel like they’re playing a home series, because they are master class players of spin bowling, and they know that their spinners would be able to defend totals, even if they were moderate.

Axar Patel who sneered 3-17 and Harbhajan Singh who took 2-29 swung the pendulum in the blink of an eye, as batsman after batsman either got out to them, or poked and prodded, or played and missed their way through a scratchy innings.

Zimbabwe will be up against the spinners for one final time, before they prepare to meet World Cup finalists New Zealand in two weeks time, but as for today, they will somehow have to dig deep and play with considerably more commitment, passion and pride than Friday.

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