Dismay all round as cricketers fluff NZ tour

The dust has settled on Zimbabwe’s historic tour of New Zealand, but the post-mortem of that trip has not been a happy one. This was meant to be their big moment - their first overseas Test tour in half a decade. But at the crucial juncture, the cricketers fluffed their lines.

Senator Coltart and Tatenda Taibu. (Credit: ZIMBABWE CRICKET)
Senator Coltart and Tatenda Taibu. (Credit: ZIMBABWE CRICKET)

Zimbabwe Cricket’s managing director Ozias Bvute got the ball rolling by suggesting that “a full inquiry into our shortcomings will be made” after Zimbabwe repeatedly fell short in every department, their ineptitude with the bat combining with startling lapses in the field to contribute to a series of disastrous results.

“The New Zealand tour was disappointing and would have done much damage in terms of others’ perception of what’s happening in Zimbabwe cricket,” suggested professional cricketer-turned-commentator Mpumelelo Mbangwa.

“We are obviously concerned with the way the senior players performed. A trend is developing where if Taylor fails to perform we do not compete and we only do well when he gets a good score,” cricket committee chairman Alistair Campbell told reporters in Zimbabwe after the team’s arrival.

Despite the growing reliance on the in-form Brendan Taylor, it simply would not do to cull the team of non-performing batsmen and bring in a new lot. As Andy Flower has shown with England, consistency in selection brings success. Zimbabwe have simply got to make the best use of what resources are available. This draws attention to two further issues that have drawn the ire of many followers of Zimbabwean cricket in recent times: the non-selection of Vusi Sibanda and questions over batsman Gary Ballance’s future. ZC have made their position on Sibanda – who was overlooked after deciding to play in Australia instead of signing for a local franchise – very clear, and hopefully his temporary departure from the national set-up was a one-off. Ballance’s situation is a little trickier.

The Harare-born 22-year-old, who played Under-19 cricket for Zimbabwe, signed a new two-year deal with English county side Yorkshire at the end of the 2011 season. He’s also been in stunning form for the Mid West Rhinos in Zimbabwe’s Logan Cup, leading the national batting tables with an eye-catching 1,093 runs at 84.07.

Ballance appears to have his sights set on an England place and his uncle Dave Houghton has insisted he’s powerless to change his mind. Surprisingly, the young batsman has had no official approach from ZC to offer him a national contract.

“One of my real concerns is that we are losing some key players to other nations,” suggested senator David Coltart, Minister of Sport and a keen cricket follower. “I’m particularly heart-sore about Gary Ballance, because he is such a superb talent. I just hope that we can get the politics sorted out quickly enough to be able to persuade someone like him to play for Zimbabwe, rather than England.

“I feel he would be treated in the same way Graeme Hick was treated in England. If he’s on top of his game he’ll be put in, but because he’s a foreigner he’ll be dropped very quickly if he doesn’t do well. Whereas if he comes to play for Zimbabwe, he will be a certain pick in good times and bad times. They will stick with him.”

Coltart has been outspoken in his criticism of the cricketing authorities after Zimbabwe’s winless tour, suggesting that national pride had been at stake and questioning the number of support staff.

Zimbabwe will certainly have time to regroup before their next international engagements as there is a paucity of cricket scheduled for the national team in 2012. There has been talk of a limited-overs series against South Africa, but the only certainty in Zimbabwe’s international calendar for 2012 is that they will go to the World T20 in Sri Lanka in September – to face Sri Lanka and South Africa, a daunting prospect.

Apart from that, the ICC’s Future Tours Programme suggests that Zimbabwe will host Bangladesh in August and Pakistan at the end of the year. What is sorely needed is more exposure to top-level cricket, with A tours – such as those conducted by South Africa and Australia last year.

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