ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

World Cup 2011

Zimbabwe flatter to deceive

The most important lesson for Zimbabwe to take away from a disappointing campaign is the sheer amount of work still needed if they are to avoid embarrassing themselves when they return to Test cricket later this year

Liam Brickhill

March 21, 2011

Comments: 12 | Text size: A | A

World Cup performance


Brendan Taylor gets a perpendicular cut away for four, Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe, Group A, World Cup, Pallekele, March 10, 2011
Brendan Taylor did not have much support from the rest of the Zimbabwe top order © Associated Press
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Players/Officials: Ray Price | Brendan Taylor
Series/Tournaments: ICC Cricket World Cup
Teams: Zimbabwe

To the casual observer, it may well have appeared that there were two World Cups happening during the group stage. The contrast between the feisty performances of Group B's minnows and the limp-wristed capitulations of those in Group A could not have been starker, and Zimbabwe must take some of the blame for that.

For their first fifty overs of the tournament they held their own against Australia but it quickly became apparent that, as a unit, their batsmen were simply not yet up to the task of consistently scoring runs against world-class bowling attacks. The Charles Coventry opening experiment, while admirable in its aims, proved an unmitigated disaster and one can only hope that a batsman of his undeniable potential will be given the chance to redeem himself in the lower middle order, where he belongs.

There was also a certain tactical naivety to Zimbabwe's approach. They talked themselves into a corner with brash statements about "targeting" New Zealand when it may have been wiser to maintain a quiet confidence and let the opposition stew in the uncertainties that were no doubt raised after their beating at the hands of Australia. The decision to bat first in that game then heaped pressure onto an already brittle batting line-up, and yet again an otherwise impressive group of spinners was rendered toothless by the inability of the batsmen to build a total against all but the weakest opponents.

The train-wreck collapse to Tillakaratne Dilshan's previously unheralded straight-breaks, after Brendan Taylor had single-handedly raised his team into a winning position, made for particularly excruciating viewing, while Elton Chigumbura's bizarre decision to bat first on a seaming track under leaden-grey skies against Pakistan unchained a marauding Umar Gul and back-fired spectacularly. The ease of Zimbabwe's wins over Canada and Kenya provided precious little succour against the backdrop of such spineless surrenders, but amid the gloom there remain glimmers of hope.

High

Zimbabwe must have entertained thoughts of an Ireland-style giant-killing act in the course of Taylor and Regis Chakabva's record opening-stand against Sri Lanka. Taylor in particular defied the reputations of the bowlers and the tricky conditions to set his team up for a serious challenge on Sri Lanka's mountainous 327 for 6, and Zimbabwe stormed past 100 in just the 17th over.

 
 
"The depth of Zimbabwe's batting failures demands a complete overhaul, but it would not help to purge the current squad of non-performers, firstly because their inadequacies are mental, rather than technical."
 

Low

Sadly, when Chakabva was removed by Muttiah Muralitharan that spell was quickly broken. The meek submission to Sri Lanka was a low made all the more dispiriting by the height from which Zimbabwe fell. From 117 for 0 they subsided for a meagre 188, and Tillakaratne Dilshan was gifted 4 for 4 - and very nearly a hat-trick - to go with his century.

Strengths

It's no secret that spin was to be Zimbabwe's weapon at the tournament, and while any threat the spinners might have posed was nullified by a series of sub-par totals on generally benign batting surfaces, the bowling was mostly of a high standard. The spin quartet of Ray Price, Prosper Utseya, Graeme Cremer and Greg Lamb performed as well as they could have expected. Price stood out with nine wickets at just 18.77 and an economy rate of 3.44 an over, while Chris Mpofu's progress under the tutelage of bowling coach Heath Streak was evident in his returns of seven wickets at 22.71 apiece.

Weaknesses

Zimbabwe's batting had more than one moment of startling incompetency, and with a Test return now months away, their weaknesses against the short ball are particularly worrying. Craig Ervine managed 231 runs at 38.50 in the tournament, although he was helped by fifties against the pop-gun Canadians and Kenyans, while Taylor showcased his talent against New Zealand and Sri Lanka and unfurled a trademark upper-cut that left a lasting impression. Against the top teams, there was precious little from the rest of the batting order.

Prospects

The depth of Zimbabwe's batting failures demands a complete overhaul, but it would not help to purge the current squad of non-performers, firstly because their inadequacies are mental, rather than technical, and secondly because there is no-one to replace them with. The Coventry debacle and the mysterious non-selection of the experienced Hamilton Masakadza aside, selectorial decisions cannot be blamed for the shoddy performance as, barring the absent Masakadza, Zimbabwe's best one-day cricketers were picked for the tournament. The most important lesson for Zimbabwe to take away from a disappointing campaign is the sheer amount of work still needed if they are to avoid embarrassing themselves when they return to Test cricket later this year.

Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN EMEA Ltd.

Comments: 12 
Posted by   on (March 23, 2011, 12:06 GMT)

It's all in the mind. Zim need to change the way they approach their games and the way that they think of themselves. It's not as if they dont have the talent, they do. Even if we don't have a quickie, we've been using what we have, why not build around that, whilst fast bowlers are being developed? The battle here is in the mind and with the selectors too, come to think of it.

Posted by Nduru on (March 23, 2011, 10:22 GMT)

@Utkarsh Sharma, I'm not sure what country you support but before you mock Zimbabwe please remember that our team was on a very good run in the early 2000s, with the world's number one test batsman and a lot of potential, especially when you consider our small player base. The ONLY reason that improvement did not continue was because we had a huge political crisis that pretty much ruined EVERY sector of our economy and society. The fact that our team is still as good as it is, has recovered admirably and has a positive future shows how hugely resilient we are and how much our efforts should be admired and supported. Please give credit where credit is due. And for the record, ove the last four years Zim have beaten Ireland more times than they have beaten us.

Posted by 263_zimbo-sun on (March 22, 2011, 10:13 GMT)

It was fair for Masakadza to be dropped because he had not been performing. I dont think Chakabva was worse than Masakadza. I prefer loosing with an inexperienced player who plays to his potential and at least gains experience from it than some1 who takes his place in the team for granted. Its people like Masakadza & Taibu who should be carrying the team when you consider their experience. Unfortunately Taibu is not even mentioned among those who performed or did not. Such players should be made to realise that they are replaceable as what happened to Matsikenyeri & Vermalean. Also if Prosper excels @ # 7, let him consolidate his position there. All these other players like Vusa, Chamu, Charles excelled in the middle order and were then tried up the order & failed and then sacrificed, but when u play then down the order, they do well. I have always felt that Ray Price was the natural leader of that team, he has the most experience, consistency, best ranked, oldest, played with the best

Posted by   on (March 22, 2011, 9:32 GMT)

The first thing that needs to be done is to remove Alistair Campbell from the selection panel. He should stick to commentating...As per the comments above. Maskadza should never have been left at home and Coventry should never have been asked to open the innings. Williams (presuming he is not injured) should be moved up the order to #3, Ervine at #4, Taibu #5 and possibly Coventry at #6. The spin bowling was good most of the time. but once again the medium pacers failed to take wickets and were unable to reduce the run-rate. Zim has a LONG way to go before it will be competitive in test cricket.

Posted by   on (March 22, 2011, 9:25 GMT)

ZIM might have a bright future ahead...?Ithink we've been hearing this for the last 30 yrs..since then SRI LANKA ,BANGLADESH & IRELAND have gone way ahead of them..

Posted by Troyd on (March 22, 2011, 1:48 GMT)

I don't think it was that bad a campaign at all. It wasnt great, but we lost the games we were expected to lose and won the games we were expected to win. Bottom line is we were not good enougn, but we will be.

Posted by MeijiMura on (March 21, 2011, 23:39 GMT)

Success on the field starts with good management and clear direction off it. As things stand at the moment Zimbabwe have neither.

Zimbabwe went into the World Cup with too many "pacemen", three wicket keepers and too few batsmen, a totally lopsided and unbalanced squad.

As for the argument that selectorial decisions cannot be blamed for Zimbabwe's non-performance in the World Cup, I couldn't disagree more.

I remain convinced that had Masakadza, Sibanda and Chibhabha made up the top four along with Taylor, with Taibu at five, Coventry at six and Chigumbura at seven, then we would have seen a very different batting display and therefore performance from Zimbabwe than the one we saw in the World Cup.

Posted by   on (March 21, 2011, 15:30 GMT)

nice article must say Zimbabwe might have a bright future ahead !!

Posted by   on (March 21, 2011, 14:32 GMT)

finaly,someone is talking sense.thank u very much liam,u have summed up zimbabwe perfectly.i do have one addition,so to speak.the none perfoming players must be dropped completely from the squard.pple like chigumbura,coventry,panyangara and to a lesser extent chakabva.in coventry's case,whether u open or not makes no difference if u cnt bat.sloggers like him are only meant for t20,nothin more.he's jus confirmed that he was a 1 hit wonder.as for chigumbura,he needs to drop himself himself from captaincy and take time off cricket.he's burned out jus like masakadza.i bet u if he's dropped from bein captain,he's goin to be first player to be dropped.masakadza has rested,he's goin to be back to his menasing form.panyangara,is jus not international standard,period.chakabva needs more time,plenty more time.i wonder wat the purpose of bringing duffin was.he's a specialist opener,but never once played.chris mpofu is eventualy goin to get replaced by keegan meth.

Posted by Nduru on (March 21, 2011, 14:19 GMT)

Good review Liam. I think that it was also a pity that Sean Williams got injured as he had some promising lower-middle order innings in the first two games. I also think that they were hoping Sean Ervine would provide middle order strength, which did not materialise when he pulled out of the squad last minute. I do not understand pushing Chakabva into an opening role when he is barely an international-level middle order batsman yet (although I thought he was very brave and put in a good fight with BT against SL). If they picked Duffin as a specialist, why did they not try him out? Let's hope this is a lesson to the whole setup as there was quite a lot of Naïveté on display. I still think that our player base is much wider than in years past even if we did have some phenomenally talented guys like the Flowers back then. We now have many more people interested in what was a white middle class sport. This at least is a positive for the future.

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