Where is Zim cricket going?

HARARE - Zimbabwe as a country has endured many hardships for a number of years.

From land grabbing to power and water cuts. From almost nonexistent roads to a wounded economy.

She strains, she staggers and now she finds herself on her knees.

Like a bull waiting with an air of resignation to receive the killing thrust from the victorious matador.

The spectators in the arena wait with mixed feelings of horror, disbelief and a deep and incurable sadness.

Waiting for the final death bellows from their beloved country as she finally submits to the cruel hand which has reigned terror and cruelty upon her and her people for so many years.

Amongst all the real and genuine hardships, there is also a matter of sport.

A trivial concern when considering all the other real problems which continue to beset this once vibrant jewel, the bread basket of Africa.

Each and every sport has had its fair shares of ups and downs.

Amongst the wreckage of the country, certain members have stood out like beacons and have done the nation proud.

Kirsty Coventry, Charles Manyuchi and Brendon de Jonge are a few examples of shining lights in a more than dark environment.

The Zimbabwean cricket team is another one of those teams who have the ability to impress, and a tendency to frustrate.

The story of cricket in the country has been well documented, from pre-independence years when players were picked to represent South Africa before they went into isolation, to the country’s first trip to the World Cup in 1983.

From their inaugural Test in October 1992 to Henry Olonga and Andy Flower’s human rights protest during the 2003 World Cup.

From the player walk out in 2004 to an amazing win over Australia in 2014.

Zimbabwean fans who have stuck around have seen it all.

So where exactly do the cricket team stand after years of rollercoaster like experiences?

Former players have come back to try and resuscitate the game, either in a coaching capacity, or as administrators, and yet there has been no real improvement in the game.

There has been the odd spike in the right direction, but they invariably lead to bigger disappointments than previously experienced.

Such are the disappointments, that previously patient and vociferous crowds who used to throng the grass banks and watering holes have now disappeared back into the quiet and obscure places they came from.

Gone are the days of the cheerful singing from the stands, or the raucous encouragement from the grass banks, only to be replaced by an ominous hush which hangs over the ground like a raincloud about to disgorge its con tense.

In the 90s and early 2000s, fans would celebrate series wins over the likes of England, India and Pakistan.

Now fans are hopeful to celebrate series wins over the likes of Ireland and Afghanistan teams who in their own right have come along in leaps and bounds, and deserve to be respected.

But why has it come to this?

Why has it come down to a once rich and proud nation with a history steeped with pride and honour to now find themselves constantly fighting depression and oppression?

Vastly-experienced coach Dav Whatmore was recruited to try and breathe some long lost life back into a team which had been mollycoddled and pampered by a previous coach, then verbally abused and at times sworn at by another coach.

Whatmore had been left with an extremely difficult job to try and find the balance between bringing out the best in the team, but at the same time reviving their shattered confidence.

He had to instil the knowledge that they were human and allowed to have a bad day at the office, but also change the laid back and at times lazy culture they had developed over the years.

Furthermore, fans wanted results from the newly-appointed coach, and they wanted them with immediate effect due to two reasons.

The first reason, was that Whatmore arrived in the country with a fantastic pedigree to his name.

Coaching Sri Lanka to World Cup glory in 1996 transforming Bangladesh from a bunch of talented amateurs to a competent and competitive team by getting rid of some of the older statesmen and drafting in fresh blood.

What many of the fans in Zimbabwe don’t understand, is that a coach can only work with what he is given to work with, and results were never going to change overnight.

The team had a disappointing World Cup, as many predicted, and fortunately the powers that be at Zimbabwe Cricket gave Whatmore their full backing and support as the team prepared to embark on their tour of Pakistan.

Although Zimbabwe have enjoyed relative success against India, with a series levelling win in the Twenty20 series, wins against New Zealand and Pakistan, as well as a series win over Ireland, it’s the cricket they have played in between that has hurt more than the feeling of satisfaction they would have felt from their wins against India, New Zealand, Pakistan and Ireland.

Inconsistency is a word we have used on countless occasions in the past, and it is a word which will still be used until such time that the team are able to shrug off the label of choking when batting first, and allowing the opposition to recover from losing positions to eventually win matches.

Every positive result in between will sadly be greeted with mute applause and a great deal of skepticism until the team finds a way of playing a positive and attacking brand of entertaining cricket.

But what is the problem? Why do Zimbabwe continue to take one step forward and several steps back?

By the end of October, they would have played 17 ODIs and seven Twenty20 internationals, and barring a 5-0 win over Afghanistan, they really would have very little to cheer about.

So where does the fault lie?

Can we still blame the hit and miss results on lack of exposure to international cricket?

Or is it a case of accepting the harsh reality that the standard of cricket in the country has dropped and will never be the same as it used to be?

Given the fact that senior players still make the same mistakes despite some of them having played close to 200 ODIS for their country?

And a quick browse on Cricinfo’s website will fill the reader with an even deeper apprehension when they discover that each and every fringe player averages less than 30 as a top order batsman at domestic level, and therefore strictly speaking shouldn’t even be playing first class cricket.

But if we were to take such a belligerent stance against the players, would it be worth even continuing to try and promote the game in the country?

Should we not just call it a day and focus on something entirely different?

If that day were to come, and if that decision were to be made, I for one would undoubtedly shed tears of frustration, anger and sadness.

But where are we going wrong?

Why are we not progressing as a cricketing nation?

How is it that Ireland, who have a predominantly rugby background are able to make such big strides in the game?

Granted, many of their players play county cricket, but in order to play county cricket, you should still have some sort of talent and CV to impress?

These are questions that constantly get asked, but up to now remain unanswered.

Comments (4)

good analysis but until the quarter system is removed we will not go anywhere. until people who haven't played the sport are not to be allowed to be board chairman's, until bedroom coop like "manatse" stop we are not going anywhere. until people like mangongo stop thinking they are Gods to the game in Zimbabwe, until people like prosper utseya stop using race when they under perform. until no one has a fixed sport in the team like "masakadza". until we as a nation embrace a culture of together no matter black or white or Asian, until management stop using ICC grants to further their businesses and sending their children to world class schools with that money, until people do not get selected as coaches because their a black despite being clueless "Hondo". until captains are selected on performance not colour. I for one has been following rural schools I can tell you I know 20 people who can throw over 145km/h but because the likes of panyngara are guaranteed player even when he is massacred in the closing overs. the only way out is to put a good administration with people like andy flower and neil jonhson then select players on performance not colour, stop recycling players we have new blood all over , develop from every school group A or in chikwaka down there. no one currently cares about village boys. we are dying a slow death

bowler - 15 October 2015

i think we are moving in the right direction. the new selectors are dropping under performing players and bringing in new blood. i think we are a good side on par with the likes of WI ,BAN the problem is our fielding lets us down every match...tjo ...dropped catches and misfields cost us 50+ runs per match. also we need jat least one bowler who can bowl 150km/hr with ease.

sky - 17 October 2015

The policy of entitlement is killing our sport. The current system is counter productive. 200 ODI's making the same mistakes . Cricket is a specialised game its either you have it or you don't. This country has talent in all sports and we are our own enemy.

X-MAN IV - 19 October 2015

bowler you are full of nonense do you even play cricket. Your spellings too are aweful, get your diction correct and then perhaps start commenting about cricket.

bowler2 - 20 October 2015

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