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Australia v Zimbabwe, World Cup 2011, Ahmedabad

Old guard leads Zimbabwe's revival

Brydon Coverdale in Ahmedabad

February 19, 2011

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It's eight years since the black armband protest carried out by Henry Olonga and Andy Flower at the 2003 World Cup, and Zimbabwean cricket hasn't been the same since. The following year, Heath Streak's captaincy ended amid disharmony with Zimbabwe Cricket and an exodus of leading players began, and the country's self-imposed exile from Test cricket came in 2005.

But slowly, things have started to improve in the nation's cricketing ranks. The grassroots scene has benefited from the arrival of some international stars, with Jason Gillespie coaching the Mid West Rhinos and Allan Donald having worked with the Mountaineers, while Streak is back as the national team's bowling coach and Grant Flower has returned to be the batting coach.

"I think it's come on a lot," Grant Flower said in the lead-up to Zimbabwe's first match at the World Cup, against Australia on Monday. "We've had our troubles with some of us leaving the country. We left under not the greatest circumstances but hopefully that is all in the past. Both parties probably made some mistakes but that's life, nothing's perfect. Things are moving in the right direction.

"We've got a good franchise system in place now, we've had some good overseas pros who have come and helped raise the standard, we've had some good overseas coaches who have been working with the franchise system and I think a lot of good things are in place. We've got Alastair Campbell as convener of selectors, he's done a lot of hard work behind the scenes.

"We've got some good people there, and the players are playing some decent cricket. Quite a few of the guys have played quite a few one-day internationals now, so there's quite a bit of experience. We're expecting some good things at the World Cup."

But while Zimbabwe are heading in an encouraging direction, there remains plenty of work ahead of them if they are to force their way past the group stage at this tournament. One of Australia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and New Zealand would need to stumble for Zimbabwe to make it through, although they have gained some insights from their 3-1 loss to Bangladesh in December.

"Hopefully we've learnt from our mistakes," Flower said. "They're a very well organised side now and they're hard to beat in their home conditions. We got some things wrong there. We didn't play the left-arm spin that well. But the guys have gone back and worked hard at their games. They're more aware of what's needed on the subcontinent, so hopefully it can go from strength to strength.

"The guys have done well against Australia in other tournaments. We'll just have to see on the day. It's a huge thing to have that self-belief, and hopefully that will continue."

The Zimbabweans will have been encouraged by what they saw in the warm-up games, where Australia's batsmen struggled against spin. The slow-bowling of Prosper Utseya, Ray Price and Graeme Cremer could be a key if Zimbabwe are to cause an upset, but Utseya is not getting ahead of himself.

"It's one of our strengths and we'd like to play to our strength," Utseya said. "They're a good side, I know they have struggled against spin, but we still have a lot of work to do and we need to make sure we're on top of our game for us to be able to restrict them to a low score."

Zimbabwe won the last time these two teams played, although the format was 20 overs and it was three years ago. It would be a brave person to predict two in a row, but at least Zimbabwe are heading in the right direction.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 7 
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Posted by Dummy4 on (February 20, 2011, 16:42 GMT)

Boring to see Aussie batting without great Gilly and Hyden...Watson should fire...hoping to see another 300+ score game...

Posted by Sharon on (February 20, 2011, 8:19 GMT)

Deep rooted fear ! Ha ha ha ! Of what? johnson, kwajah, tait, clarke, ponting ! ha ha ha!!! I like these jokes of yours @meety do have any more to make us laugh???

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 20, 2011, 3:34 GMT)

Some batting practice for the Aussies

Posted by Andrew on (February 20, 2011, 2:25 GMT)

LOL @ calvin_n, A_Vacant_Slip - I suspect deep rooted fear of coming up against Oz is the reason behind those comments. Anyways time for talk is over its action from here on in. Good luck Zim & all the 14 teams in the Cup!

Posted by Sharon on (February 19, 2011, 19:32 GMT)

GO ZIMBABWE!! Give Australia a good beating!

Posted by Calvin on (February 19, 2011, 18:27 GMT)

GO ZIMBABWE....Indian fans are with you!!!!

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 19, 2011, 15:30 GMT)

they r going to lose big time...

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Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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