Wither Zimbabwe cricket?

The Chronicle

Dingilizwe Ntuli

TO be honest, Zimbabwean cricket is dying a slow, but inevitable death and recent results bear testimony to the embarrassing fate that has befallen the local game.

The men’s senior national team’s performances have been extraordinarily poor to the extent that even non-regular cricket followers are asking what is going on.

It’s unbelievable that 23 years ago, cricket threatened to overtake football as the country’s most popular sport after the Chevrons stunned the cricketing world by reaching the Super Six stage of the 1999 Cricket World Cup in England.

Cricket World Cup

Zimbabwe went on a fairy-tale run to reach the Super Six after beating Kenya, India and South Africa.

Despite being knocked out by Pakistan, they had made their mark in the cricket world and won the hearts of their countrymen and women.

There was euphoria nationwide and suddenly children started playing cricket in the streets, using tennis balls, planks and sticks as bats and bricks as stumps — mostly in the country’s western suburbs.

This had never been seen before, as football always held the monopoly of street sport in the country.

The heroics of that crop of Chevrons at the World Cup threatened to change that status quo, and it seemed to have worked for a while.

Development structures were set up, with the Zimbabwe Cricket Academy punted as the main factory that would churn out the next generations of cricketers.

Zimbabwe Cricket Academy

But that dream was reduced to a heap of ZC’s ambitions after the national cricket academy was burnt down by former Test cricketer Mark Vermeulen in 2006.

This was two years after a mass exodus of senior white players following a row over selection.

The senior players were against a selection quota for black players.

Unfortunately, the pool of players that replaced the rebels thereafter have totally failed over the years.

It has been 18 years since that infamous rebellion, but ZC has failed to plug the hole dug by the rebels.

There are still structures in place creating the same problem of exclusivity that led to the rebellion of 2004.

The rebels had created an exclusive “old boys club” and wanted to keep the game among players from certain schools and families.

Today, some players are not selected on the basis of merit, but proximity to the powers that influence the selection process and hence the same failed cricketers continue being selected and they continue failing.

The lack of depth in the quality of players in the current Chevrons’ team is astonishing, as they don’t possess the same art or threat of past generations of players that helped secure Zimbabwe full membership of the International Cricket Council.

The healthy grassroots development of cricket in Zimbabwe in the 1990s is now just a distant memory.

International Cricket Council

It’s scary how Zimbabwe struggles against ICC associate members and their embarrassing 2-3 loss to Namibia in a five-match T20 international series marked a new low for the local game.

If we can’t beat Namibia, what then are our prospects against other ICC full members?

We should be thrashing Namibia for us to even fancy our chances against other full members.

It is not surprising that the Chevrons were whitewashed 3-0 by Afghanistan in the recent one-day international series.

So poor was the batting in the third match that Zimbabwe could only hit eight fours and one six.

One wonders if there are batting standards for one to be selected for national duty.

Just what is the average in first class cricket for one to be a top order batsman for the national team?

The same goes for our bowling attack, which is blunt and lacks genuine fast bowlers that can swing the ball, bowl consistently maintaining line and length to stem the run flow and put pressure on the opponents’ batsmen.

Again, there are no known standards of how Chevrons’ bowlers are selected and the results unfortunately show inn international matches.

We have no bowling partnership to attack batsmen from both ends, which makes it difficult to defend any total.

Can ZC publish players’ stats next time they select Test, ODI and T20 squads so that we satisfy ourselves that they have been chosen on merit.

This will lay bare the state of our domestic league and also address suspicions of favouritism that has long been associated with national team selection.

The truth is that the ZC chiefs are not actively investing in growth initiatives and seem unbothered by it.

Whatever initiatives they may claim to have in place are evidently producing underwhelming results.

The current crop of Chevrons lacks the very basics of cricket that should be taught to them at primary school level.

Lalchand Rajput

Based on recent performances by the national team, it’s also evident that Lalchand Rajput is not the right man to coach the side.

He’s been here for long and has literally been getting away with murder for all the big bucks he is paid.

ZC must release him from his contract because we are clearly going nowhere with him as a coach because it’s under him that the Chevrons have bagged some shameful records.

If we can be humiliated by Namibia, then it begs the question why we must retain a foreign coach.

Why must he continue in his role when he is clearly taking us nowhere?

It’s better to replace Rajput with a local coach, whose main mandate must be to teach the current bunch the basics of the game because clearly some of them need to be taught the stance, the back lift along with the proper way to watch the ball with their eye level, keeping the balance.

There is definitely a dearth of talent in both batsmen and bowlers.

People used to enjoy the competition and the battle between batsman and bowlers, but virtually none of the Chevrons’ batsmen can defend on the front foot and backfoot.

They lack the patience, temperament and proper technique to bat to give bowlers something to defend.

ZC needs to do something to stop the local game from going into the abyss.

The franchise and league systems have dismally failed and need a complete overhaul for them to serve their intended purposes.

Deploying national team players to franchises in a bid to strike a balance has simply camouflaged the failure of ZC’s development strategy, it at all it exists.

It’s futile to deploy a national team player to supposedly help guide budding players only to ignore their efforts unless they play for certain league teams.

Give every cricketer a chance regardless of which team they play for.

The ones being retained have consistently failed and selectors must do the right thing and look at others.

Also revive schools’ cricket and establish proper structures around the country to increase the base for national selection otherwise we will continue to face more embarrassing outcomes in future incoming and outgoing tours.

Article Source: The Chronicle

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