Why can't Zim cricket move on?

HARARE - The past week was a real mixed bag. The ODI series against India ended with a resounding 93-run loss, and after a nightmare first Twenty20 international, Zimbabwe bounced back beautifully to level the series, and to end the tour on a high.

The most talked about point that emanated from Zimbabwe’s 10-run win on Sunday, was a breath of fresh air that swept through the entire team like a breeze in the springtime.

That springtime breeze, was none other than Sikandar Raza Butt, who stood in as captain for the injured Elton Chigumbura.

When it was announced that Raza would be captaining the team, a gentle sigh ran through the press box, and spilt out into the corridor, of the media centre.

Raza has been there and thereabouts as a player for a number of years.

His attacking brand of cricket has always been a crowd attraction, and we have all shared Raza’s highs and lows with him, because that is how he is.

A bubbly, friendly person, who wears his heart on his sleeve.

When he performs well with the bat, the ground is lit up with a near perfect smile, and when he gets out cheaply, especially when playing a poor stroke, his disappointment in himself is so tangible, that spectators and commentators alike feel as devastated and as disappointed as he does.

Raza has always come across as someone who knows how to handle himself in press conferences, and interviews, answering questions politely, but more importantly directly and very truthfully.

So when it was announced that he would be standing in as captain, a sense of excitement filled the media centre.

Once again, Raza’s energy and enthusiasm was felt when he spoke to Dirk Viljoen at the toss, saying that he felt that we needed to change strategy, and get runs on the board.

Although his contribution was overshadowed by Chamunorwa Chibhabha’s career best 67, Raza’s promotion to captain was noticeable as soon as they took to the field.

His interaction with the bowlers was something that Zimbabwean fans would have found foreign, as most of the captains have had very little interaction with their bowlers.

They would simply set the field, and some captains would even seen to be displaying poor body language, which wouldn’t have filled the bowler with any confidence nor self belief.

Raza, however, constantly spoke to his bowlers, encouraging those who had a bad over with a quiet word, or a pat on the back, and cajoling those who had a good over with a big smile and the odd high five.

He also made a point of going around the ground and posed for photos alongside the adoring fans, who finally had something to cheer about.

He made a point to thank and embrace the curator for a job well done, which very few captains do.

It is very easy to heap compliments on a captain, especially a stand in skipper, and when the result was a favourable one, but I truly and honestly believe that even if Zimbabwe had been beaten by 110 runs, Sikandar Raza Butt would still have done all of the above.

He seems to have injected new life into his teammates as well, who were a great deal more vociferous than in any of the previous matches.

Although his elevation to skipper happened by default, it may have been a blessing in disguise, and one of the best things to have happened to Zimbabwe cricket for some time.

Chibhabha had reason to smile and bask in the glory of Sunday’s win as well, not only did he hold the innings together, but he played some magnificent strokes off both the back and front foot, and when the innings stuttered after a clutter of wickets in the middle period, Chibhabha held his nerve and continued to rotate the strike, and pick up the odd boundary when the opportunity presented itself.

He also showed the rest of his batsmen how it was done in the ODI matches, by making fluently struck back to back half centuries.

How well I remember criticising his inclusion in the World Cup earlier this year, and how nice it is to be proven wrong, and to be left with the proverbial egg on my face.

With the good however, came the bad, and it is sad to see that the ugly old race card has once again reared it’s serpent like head again.

I’m of course referring to the mammoth 17-page letter that Prosper Utseya wrote, in which he hurled the most appalling accusations at Alistair Campbell, and even implied that coach Dav Whatmore may have had a part in Campbell’s vendetta against him.

It was especially sad to see Utseya name Whatmore in the letter, without going into the background of the man, which I will not go into, as Mr Whatmore’s history is readily available online.

What Utseya has to remember, is that whilst Alistair Campbell was in charge of selection, from 2009 up to 2011, only two players were never left out of the team, or squad, unless they were injured of course, and were unavailable for selection.

Those two players were Brendan Taylor, and...

Wait for it...

Prosper Utseya...

For those of us who like trolling through the various social networks, a quick observation will tell us that Utseya has lost a considerable amount of face, fans and respect for his allegations.

For a number of years, you will observe that Utseya has become a bit of a loner, not to dissimilar to Kevin Pietersen.

When a team has a member who makes the environment uncomfortable, and unhappy, he will be dealt with by his teammates, regardless of his status in the team.

Zimbabwe Cricket have made it abundantly clear that they are going to launch a full investigation into the matter, and rightly so, and it will be interesting to see how Wilson Manase and his team respond to this very unpleasant situation.

There are some people who are of the opinion that Utseya may have been coached by somebody or indeed somebodies into taking this action.

The reasons for this suspicion, is that Utseya is normally a very quiet and non opinionated person, who speaks only when spoken to.

So it would be hard to imagine Utseya putting pen to paper, or a finger to a keyboard, and typing out a lengthy letter without the help of someone who has a lot of influence.

Somebody who he may have turned to in the past, when for example would have been able to sway the decisions of former coaches when Utseya captained the team, and someone he could call upon for help when things weren’t going the way he would have wanted them to go.

There is a thought that perhaps Utseya’s would be ally may possibly have issues of his own, and could be using the troubled off spinner as a speaking trumpet, but, ifs, whats and assumptions without being able to back up statements with proof can be a very dangerous game to play, when one is not in position of all the faculties.

Be that is it may, one can only hope that the right decision is made, and that it will be a fair decision, so that the players and the game can move on.

Comments (2)

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As long as we have people within the fold of zimbabwean cricket for stand for personal gains and not cricket at heart we will continue to have such petty coming out and ruining our image internationally

cricfaan - 30 July 2015

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