We need more red ball cricket

HARARE - The first observation that leapt out at us after Zimbabwe's innings and 117 run loss to New Zealand after the first Test match was that local players are desperately short of red ball cricket.

The domestic system has been curtailed and shortened due to the financial constraints which have spread through the sport like a malignant cancer, and that financial cancer has caused a ripple effect which has caused terrible damage to the sport from the very top down to grassroots cricket.

However, in an exclusive interview with Zimbabwe Cricket blog last week, chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani breathed potential life into the flagging hope of fans when he revealed that a brand new first class system will be put into place, with a two tier first system, which will hopefully reach out to some of the more outlying areas, and also keep the franchise players, who up to this point have been able to meander through the season without much fear of been dropped from their franchises on their toes.

Mukuhlani went on to explain that there would be four provincial sides in the top tier while the second tier would comprise a further six to eight teams which would play three-day cricket, which would make it very similar to the system which worked very nicely in South Africa back in the 90s.

So with steps been taken to try and resurrect the longer version of the game at domestic level, what steps have been, or will be taken to try and resuscitate red ball cricket for the Zimbabwe A team, which is one step lower than the Test team, as well as the Test team?

What we naturally need is for these teams to be playing as much cricket as is reasonably possible, but one of the most important ingredients for all of this to happen, is a commodity most Zimbabweans, both privately and corporately don't have.

And that commodity is money.

There may however be a bit of a silver lining regarding finances for ZC with the ICC Test Fund commencing this year, which strictly speaking should give ZC less of an excuse to not host Test cricket.

It would also hopefully benefit the A team to receive more tours, as well as to more importantly tour as well, which would give players some much needed exposure to different playing conditions.

It would also allow for players to have more match practice when Test sides tour Zimbabwe, unlike the ongoing series against New Zealand where most of the players, in particular the senior players have gone into the two match series cold and out of practice.

Had more matches for the A side been arranged, most of the probable pool of players would have had a look in- and while acting coach Makhaya Ntini was adamant that South Africa A's tour to Zimbabwe was only for the fringe players, his suburb decision came back to bite him, as players such as Hamilton Masakadza and Chamunorwa Chibhabha were found wanting.

When Zimbabwe re-entered the Test arena back in 2011, they had perfect preparations leading up to the one-off Test match against Bangladesh with two four-day matches against Australia A, and a further two against New Zealand A, where the senior players had a good run, and where young players were also blooded into the test team.

So although Ntini is obviously looking for new talent, the way it was done could be questioned.

There has also been a lot of talk about Sri Lanka and the West Indies touring Zimbabwe later in the year, and the hopes and expectations were that Zimbabwe would play a further four Test matches, two against Sri Lanka, and two against the West Indies.

However, it would appear that these plans may be scuppered by the suggestion of having a triangular series, which would involve Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and the West Indies.

If this were to come into fruition, one would question how serious ZC are to play more Test cricket, because two Test matches per year will sadly never put Test cricket in this country back on the map, which in turn would more than likely see more players leave the country in order to play professional cricket elsewhere.

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