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
March 21, 2011
World Cup performance
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.
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."|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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