ZIMBABWE’S purported ascendancy back into the international cricketing elite seems to have hit its first stumbling block as the team has suffered yet another humiliating series defeat.
The defeat came at the hands of fallen Asian giants Pakistan, who won a total of six games during their visit, namely a one-off Test, three One-Day Internationals and two Twenty20 matches.
The visitors won in all three formats.
Once again the Zimbabwe technical team finds itself in all-too-familiar territory, as they sift through the wreckage of a nightmarish tour and try to assess where it all went wrong.
One of the few things the tour managed to achieve was expose the host nation’s frailties that could once again bring Zimbabwe’s credentials on the international stage into question.
The past two months have seen the team meet mixed fortunes against two Asian sides.
The dream began in early August with the team marking its triumphant return to the Test arena with a resounding 130-run victory over Bangladesh, a feat that most critics attributed to the Asian side’s poor performance more than anything else.
However, that same dream then turned sour as the team met an equally young and inexperienced Pakistan side who came, saw and conquered.
The question, though somewhat premature, now beckons — does Zimbabwe have what it takes to compete on the grand stage? If the just-ended Pakistan tour is anything to go by, then the answer is “not really”.
Ability seems to be there in abundance but the team with all its experience seems to be still lacking that killer instinct as they often put themselves in winning positions, only to drop the ball at crucial moments.
Issues such as dodgy team selection and a lack of mental strength when trying to kill off games seem to be the only logical explanations left.
Ironically, these were some of the contributing factors that led Zimbabwe into its “self-imposed exile” in the first place. Team selection tops the list of shortcomings, as the country is still without a substantive and competent T20 squad and even their ODI team still has room for improvement.
The selection panel’s decision-making during the last two tours has been suspect at most with some of their calls coming off as dubious and often off the mark.
The trio of Forster Mutizwa, Malcolm Waller and Regis Chakabva seems only able to make it only as far as the squad and never the final team.
Chakabva, arguably one of the most promising cricketers in the country earlier this year, is yet to receive the nod since Zimbabwe’s so- called return. Chigumbura, on the other hand, has since relinquished his captaincy and is currently going through a slump with both bat and ball.
His current form does not warrant a permanent place in the team as recent results have seen the all-rounder score a mere 50 runs in the ODIs and 25 runs in the T20s.
During that same series he took a paltry four wickets for 155 runs in both formats, which was as poor as his statistics during Bangladesh’s visit where he scored 71 runs in five ODIs and a Test.
He also took only seven for 245 runs, during the same number of games. His recent run of poor performances does not do justice to his talent, especially given the wealth of experience under his belt which sees him with over 136 ODI caps.
The team, as a whole, still has a long way to go as their batting statistics still do not match international standards with a large chunk of the players’ averages still below.
The Twenty20 team is the hardest hit of the three with the selection panel overlooking some out and out T20 specialists like Sikander Raza Butt, who is now eligible, and Ryan Butterworth.
The two have flourished in domestic competitions but are yet to get a call into the national team. However, Zimbabwe’s biggest obstacle remains the team’s mental strength as in all the six games the team put themselves in winning positions in three of them.
The team lost their cool at crucial points in the five-day game and eventually went on to lose, when the worst result should have been a draw. It was the same story in the first ODI and last Twenty20 match as the hosts came within fingertips of hard-fought victories, only to lose by five runs in both.
Now Zimbabwe have just over two weeks to iron out their mistakes before their next assignment against New Zealand.-The Sunday Mail