Will change of captaincy make a difference?

HARARE - Now that the dust has settled after back-to-back series against India and the New Zealand, a good review and stock take would be the order of the day.

Zimbabwe have played six ODIs, losing five and winning one.

They have played three Twenty-20 internationals, losing two and winning one. Which means we have had precious little to cheer about.

The bowling was there and there abouts, with the seamers continuing to let the side down badly towards the back end of the innings, and the opposition has still been able to recover from tricky situations to match winning situations, which means that nothing has changed since the World Cup.

The counter argument to that may be that Zimbabwe haven’t really played enough cricket after the World Cup, and so it would be unreasonable to expect change after short series against Pakistan, India and New Zealand.

So once again the loyal fans have to hear age-old quotes such as “we’re going through a rebuilding process” or... “we have to be patient”.

For the average ordinary everyday fan, those two quotes must be as frustrating as the daily Zesa and water cuts they have to endure, and the more educated follower of the game would probably be wasting their time, trying to explain the more technical side of the game.

Or! Has the technical side also become a worn out excuse?

Newly-appointed Zimbabwe Convener of selectors Kenyon Ziehl has publicly stated that a review of the captaincy will take place, leading up to future tours such as the delayed incoming tour by Pakistan and others to follow.

This may be the first port of call, and rightly so.

A number of people have scrutinised Elton Chigumbura’s captaincy, body language and sporadic form for a number of years now.

It would be harsh to criticise Chigumbura too much for his lack of form of late, though some journalists have already sharpened their knives in preparation of what may follow.

Were we not singing Chigumbura’s praises not so long ago when he hit back to back hundreds against Pakistan and India respectively?

Here is our newly-found number four batsman we said.

At last we have found someone who can play the anchor role if need be, but can also apply the finishing touches when necessary.

When Chigumbura got Zimbabwe within four runs of what would have been a fantastic win over India, the stands reverberated to the sounds of singing, dancing and chanting, and rightly so.

Chigumbura had become a reluctant bowler, due to a combination of a persistent quad injury as well as an increasing lack of confidence.

So when he adopted the mantle of batting at number four, as a pure out and out batsman, people embraced the idea and ran with it while he was in form.

The down side, however, was that although Chigumbura was seemingly making strides as an out and out batsman, his role as captain was still a grey area.

A captain’s job is a demanding one. Not only is he expected to lead from the front with bat or ball, or in some occasions, both, but he is also expected to be the rock of the team.

Someone who players can turn to in a crisis, and talk to when the going gets tough.

A captain is also someone who should be able to think on his feet, and make snappy decisions, and not allow the game to drift away.

Body language is another key factor, as the body language of the captain often affects the rest of the teammates.

When coming out to bat, Chigumbura often gives the impression of being bored or disinterested, as he casually sidles, almost swaggers out to the middle.

Whether this is the case or not, we will never know, but it does raise more than a few eyebrows.

So is a change of leadership required? One would almost certainly think so.

But who would be the man next in line?

One of the criteria when looking to change the captaincy, is to find a player who consistently performs with the bat, or ball, but consistency is something that has been lacking from the team since the departure of Brendan Taylor.

We have seen glimpses of sheer brilliance on occasions, Craig Ervine’s 130 in the first ODI against the Black Caps springs to mind, while Sikandar Raza Butt’s 100* in the second ODI could be described as one of Zimbabwe’s best hundreds ever, given the fact that he had to bat with the tail for most off his innings.

Yet, despite the promise shown by both players, neither of them have shown the consistency required for the selectors to place enough faith in them to captain the team.

To be fair, have any of the current squad shown enough consistency to warrant a claim for captaincy?

Almost certainly not, so Zimbabwe cricket and the selectors have no choice but to work with what they have.

If the captain would be selected purely on enthusiasm, energy and body language, as well as off-field commitments, such as pre and post match interviews, Sikandar Raza would win the contest hands down, as nobody else in the team comes close to him.

Raza is modest, level headed, yet confident without the swag and pre-madonna status so many of our players spot.

He acknowledges the fans at all times, and goes to great lengths to ensure his players know what their role in the side is.

He constantly communicates with his bowlers, encourages when required, and commends when necessary.

There may be a bit of a question mark behind his consistency, but Raza is a naturally positive person both on and off the field.

He captains and plays with a refreshing attitude that the team desperately needs, and one couldn’t help noticing how Raza’s energy and passion rubbed off on the players with immediate effect.

After the early success against the New Zealand, the series filtered out into yet another disappointment, but Raza may possibly hold one of the many missing links to get the team back on track again.

So will a change of captaincy make a difference?

Results may not change with immediate effect, but the attitude almost certainly will.

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