Something to smile about

HARARE - Although Zimbabwe's cricket fans are still reeling from yet another woeful performance, both Malcolm Waller and Neville Madziva gave the disgruntled supporters something to smile about when Zimbabwe rose from the ashes of despair to clinch a morale boosting three wicket win in the second Twenty20 international to level the series.

The player who turned heads was undoubtedly Malcolm Waller, who had written off by many journalists and former players as someone who had overstayed his welcome, and would never be anything more than a decent franchise player.

Much like his father Andrew, Malcolm is one of those naturally-gifted people who excels at most sports he plays.

His hand and eye co-ordination is silky smooth, and his ability to think on his feet is what makes him such a talented sportsman.

And yet, despite all these natural talents, Malcolm Waller would be the first to admit that he has fallen short of the expectations so many had when they saw him making his rapid ascend through the various levels of the game before finally making his international debut in 2009.

The promise and potential was there for all to see, and many of the international journalists I worked with often nudged me and would whisper. "Zimbabwe have found someone".

Only to see Waller trudging disconsolately back to the change rooms, after yet another promising start that lead to nothing.

Waller did, however, have an opportunity to shine on a swelteringly hot day in Bulawayo when he lead Zimbabwe to a rare win over the New Zealand Black Caps back in 2011 when he scored an unbeaten 99 off just over 70 balls.

This is it! We all thought, Maru, as he is affectionately known had turned the corner and was on the way to bigger and better things for his country.

Sure enough, the middle order batsman then got a well manufactured half century against New Zealand in the first innings of the one off Test match at the same venue, but after that, he was unable to consistently deliver the goods, and eventually found himself back in the franchise system, where he once again got amongst the runs.

Waller then captained a Zimbabwean president's team in the Africa T20 Cup, and although the results were disappointing, the skipper didn't fail with the bat, which promptly saw him back in the national squad again.

Sadly, Waller didn't feature in any of the ODIs, and the sharpened pens were out like daggers, and people were asking how a 32-year-old would be contributing to the team, especially if he hardly ever delivered the goods.

There may or may not have been some justification in those questions, but Waller also inherited his father's work ethic, a attribute that many of the current team sadly lack.

He was selected to play against Ireland in a four-day game, and rewarded the selectors by scoring back to back hundreds at Harare sports club.

After a disappointing series against Afghanistan, the team left for Bangladesh where they received another trouncing in the ODI series, and once again, Waller's inclusion was bemoaned by a huge amount of fans on the various social platforms.

When Waller arrived at the crease with Zimbabwe's top order already back in the pavilion, not many people gave him, nor the team much of a chance to recover.

And to be frank, they didn't really recover, but matters could have been considerably worse, had it not been for Malcolm Waller's 68 off 31 balls.

What made his innings all the more special, was that he had very little, if any support from batsmen around him who played horrible shots, and deservedly paid the price for their actions.

Luke Jongwe's reverse sweep should have cost him a fine from the team management, and Neville Madziva also should have been rapped over the knuckles for his dismissal, when all they needed to do was to get the set batsmen back on strike.

Another impressive feature of Waller's batting was his ability to place the ball into gaps, and time the ball to or over the boundary, instead of muscling the ball, which is what most batsmen do when trying to get themselves back into form.

He made the big boundaries look pretty ordinary and ran like a whippet between the wickets, which emphasized his fitness.

It's very seldom that a batsman is able to repeat the heroics of his previous innings, but after another dismal performance by the top order, Maru Malcom Waller was at it again' and although he fell short of a consecutive 50, he swung the momentum back into Zimbabwe's favour.

Credit must also go to Luke Jongwe who's 36 allowed Waller to play his natural game, which up to the T20 internationals, he had not been doing.

Jongwe gave Waller excellent support, but he has to work on his running between the wickets, and has to understand the importance of letting the established batsman find the boundaries, instead of trying to be the hero every time he takes a wicket, holds on to a catch, or hits a boundary.

But such is the petulance of youth, and one hopes that a few of the senior players will have the good sense to clip Jongwe's wings and keep his feet on the ground if necessary.

Confidence is a very good attribute when playing international cricket, but out right arrogance is another thing entirely.

Neville Madziva was more than likely overcome by nerves, judging by the way he started his innings.

At first, he too was guilty of trying to clear the boundaries, instead of dropping the ball into gaps and getting Waller back on strike, and eventually Waller fell to a catch in the deep as he tried to wrestle back the initiative.

Waller's dismissal however, seemed to be the tonic for young Madziva who shrugged off his nerves, and produced some of the cleanest hitting we have seen for some time by smashing two huge sixes which sealed the win for Zimbabwe.

Madziva will probably be remembered for his cameo innings he played to win the match for his country, but his spell of 2-25 from his four overs was just as crucial and rightly earned him the man of the match award.

It wasn't the man of the match performance from Madziva that touched me, but the genuine happiness at the post match presentation which made my glass eyes mist up and caused me to clear my throat to get rid of the huge lump.

His genuine, almost childlike happiness was something I will remember for many years, and his gratitude to Malcolm Waller who constantly spoke to him, telling him to "keep watching the ball" paid off as the young man from the dusty streets of Kadoma kept a cool head and steered Zimbabwe to victory.

Comments (1)


zim1 - 20 November 2015

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