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The sorry state of Zimbabwe cricket

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Zimbabwe_cricket_logoThe India vs Zimbabwe series ended with India winning both the ODI and the T20 series. It had a number of positives for the Indian side with debutants like KL Rahul, Mandeep Singh, Yuzvendra Chahal and Faiz Fazal making impressions. On the other hand, there was not much that Zimbabwe could remember happily. Apart from a few one-off performances by Elton Chigumbara and Vusi Sibanda, the hosts hardly had any credentials to show off for the entire series.

The Zimbabweans were completely vanquished by the youg, Dhoni-led Indian squad. In the ODI series, Zimbabwe lost 30 wickets while India lost just 3. The contest in the series was so one sided that lower order batsmen like Kedar Jadhav, Manish Pandey and Dhoni himself faced just one ball between them in all the ODIs.

It encompassed a wide array of disappointment amongst the Zimbabwe fans. There were roars of anguish and resentment. Such was the situation that they had placed placards all over the stadium, bemoaning the drubbing the home team received against a second string Indian side. One of them read, "We cannot support disaster, calamity and quagmire of epic proportions."

Even the Zimbabwe coach Makhaya Ntini had to alter his pre-series statement of "putting the young Indian team under the carpet" to "I almost hung myself" after a dismal performance.

While the ODIs failed to provide any kind of competition, as Zimbabwe suffered crushing defeats at the hand of a young Indian side, the T20s helped the hosts express themselves better on the field. Some inspired bowling and silly mistakes by the Indian batsmen paved way for a Zimbabwe win to lift up their spirits. They failed to cash in on the confidence and were completely outplayed in the second T20. The third game was again a humdinger of a contest, but it was again more of the Indians messing it up than Zimbabwe doing well.

With the series done and dusted, the main question arises as to what has made Zimbabwe cricket go backward in terms of progress. For those who witnessed the good old days of the Flower brothers, Heath Streak and Taibu, it's difficult to believe how time has swung completely as the cricketing experts prophesy their downfall.

 

More than the dearth of talent in the country, there are a whole lot of financial issues that Zimbabwe cricket is currently dealing with, as its debt runs close to US$ 19 million. And as is inevitable in sports, events happening off the field have adverse impacts on the performance on the field. Top class players like Brendan Taylor chose to quit international cricket and play county cricket for financial issues, which was indeed a tragedy for Zimbabwe cricket. By sending the Indian team to Zimbabwe, the BCCI might have helped reduce some of the financial burden, though it's still a huge amount and a systemic problem.

It's not that Zimbabwe have suddenly struck levels of mediocrity. They have had terrible losses in the past few years at the hands of top teams, but the way they got trumped by India without showing any signs of a fight has rung alarm bells. They hardly play Tests as of now and their low rankings across all the formats have hurt their prospects of playing in the big ICC tournaments. They are probably going to end up playing the qualifiers for 2019 World Cup, and if they fail to qualify it would drown Zimbabwe cricket financially and as a team.

The ICC, as of late, has been taking steps to revamp the Associates structure by giving them more chances after some splendid performances in the WT20 qualifiers. With teams like Afghanistan and UAE putting up a better show at big tournaments, it acts as an additional pressure on Zimbabwe to get things right from here. They can take inspiration from their U-19 team which almost beat the eventual champions West Indies till a controversial dismissal crushed their hopes of a quarterfinals berth.

With both Ntini and Klusener working hand in hand with the Zimbabwe team, the players need to put up a positive approach and try making an impact at the highest level. More importantly, it would be better if things happening outside cricket didn't act as a distraction for the players and the board needs to take care of this. It's important for all the national cricketers to step up and take their game to the next level before it's too late.

Many experts there have suggested a complete overhaul of Zimbabwe cricket. This will further dampen the spirits of the current players. Indeed players like Ervine, Williams and Cremer who have shown promise time and again, need to come forward and take responsibility of guiding the team.

Who knows. Some excellent cricket at a bigger stage might withstand the weight of the not so conducive environment in Zimbabwe cricket and instill new hope in the fans. This is a 'better late than never' kind of a situation for Zimbabwe, and their performance in the coming games will be significant in deciding the future of their cricket.

 

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