ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features
New Zealand v Zimbabwe, World Cup 2011, Group A, Ahmedabad
Familiar failings for Zimbabwe
The game against New Zealand was a chance for Zimbabwe to show the world they were improving but their batting wasn't up to the occasion
Nagraj Gollapudi in Ahmedabad
March 4, 2011
Such a toothless batting performance by Zimbabwe. Should the ICC see fit to approve a qualifying tournament for the 2015 World Cup, on this evidence Zimbabwe will be hard pressed to make it through to the main event.
Take a glance at the modes of dismissal: Charles Coventry wastes his wicket with indecision leading to a run out in only the second over, Tatenda Taibu spoons a catch and gets a reprieve but the very next ball has plays across an inswinger, Craig Ervine then slashes into the hands of deep point against a short and wide delivery knowing there were four men patrolling the off side, Elton Chigumbara, gets into a tangle against Daniel Vettori and next ball Regis Chakabva edges a wide delivery to slip.
It was a perfect batting pitch, on which Vettori thought 300 was possible. Zimbabwe knew it was a must-win game to entertain hopes of a quarter-final berth. They went into the game saying it was the most important match. They elected to bat. Then they went on to make mistakes they should not even commit in the nets.
The easy conclusion to come to is that Zimbabwe have not improved much despite all the positive talk of recent times. Yet that isn't the case. It is easy to forget that most players in the squad are inexperienced. Many were thrown into deep and treacherous water by the administrators immediately after the rebels' protest during the 2003 World Cup, which led to the disintegration of the squad that had been built over a longer period of time.
Though there are quite a few players in the present squad who played in the Caribbean in 2007, most were, and are still, ill-equipped to deal with the pressures of international cricket. Only the likes of Taibu, Chigumbara, Taylor, Prosper Utseya and Ray Price have played against top-level opponents and kept their head on something approaching a regular basis.
Part of the problem is a lack of exposure as Zimbabwe have barely played top sides in the past few years and most of their success has had to come against Associates. When they visited Bangladesh late last year, a side they needed to compete against to show their development, they lost 3-1. Since May 2007, Zimbabwe have not won an ODI series against any major opponent, only beating Kenya and Ireland.
Their most notable performance against higher-ranked countries was to enter the final of the tri-series at home in 2010, but even if those were second-string sides from India and Sri Lanka, there was an important lesson there. Zimbabwe dared and made the final. But they blinked when the big moment arrived. It was the same when they pushed South Africa to the brink in two Twenty20 internationals then failed at the last hurdle. That trend has not changed much. Against Canada, last week, they were struggling at 7 for 2 with both their openers out yet they won the match by a 175-run margin.
"It is always hard against a bigger team. We had lost two wickets against Canada but we recovered," Chigumbara said. "It is very disappointing. The way we started with our batting - it is always hard to come back from losing three to four quick wickets in the first 15 overs. Today it was more about the technical errors."
Unfortunately Chigumbara's words seem to be falling on deaf ears. On Wednesday, he abruptly stopped training and had a loud message for the batsmen who were split into two sets nets. One set was facing the quick bowlers while the other was lined up against spinners on a worn pitch and Chigumbara had been watching the batsmen play casually. "I was telling them if the wicket is not playing proper make sure you apply yourselves. There is no point getting out three or four times [in the nets] as then you are doing nothing. [In the matches] most guys have got 10 runs and get out. But if they get their eye in, they are capable of scoring."
Seen in isolation, Zimbabwe batsmen played like amateurs today. Yet in the big picture, Zimbabwe have actually improved between the World Cups. And that only makes this defeat more painful.
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