Time for action over Zimbabwe's on-field performances

How much longer must this go on?

Unless the authorities act soon, the future of cricket in Zimbabwe is being endangered by their refusal to realise that the current situation cannot continue

Martin Williamson

August 9, 2005

Text size: A | A



Another Zimbabwe wicket tumbles ... but that was hardly a rarity © AFP
Enlarge

Your reaction to this article

On Sunday at Edgbaston, we witnessed Test cricket at its very best in an epic match which went down to the wire. If that was the international game at its best, what was laughingly labeled as a Test at Harare Sports Club yesterday was it at its worst.

The dictionary defines a Test as "a procedure for critical evaluation; a means of determining the presence, quality, or truth of something." However you interpret that, what went on in Harare was nothing close to fulfilling that definition. The quality of Zimbabwe cricket and its right to be deemed fit to mix with the best in the world was clear for all too see.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the political background which has stalked, and some would say blighted, Zimbabwe cricket in recent years, the blame for yesterday's farce was not the fault of the Zimbabwe board. Yes, that the side that took the field was so weak was partially the result of its questionable management and partially the legacy of the way the country as a whole is run, but the game should never have happened in the first place.

The calls for Zimbabwe and Bangladesh to be stripped of their Test status have been doing the rounds for some time. But comparisons between the two are misguided. Whereas Bangladesh is a generally cricket-mad country which can - and will - only get better, Zimbabwe is in terminal decline, in more ways than one.

A minority sport, and one for many years almost exclusively a white preserve, the numbers playing the game were always tiny in a country less than a tenth of the size of Bangladesh in the first place. Political upheavals which led to the emigration of a majority of those who played the game seriously undermined cricket's future. Commendable attempts were and are made to keep the flame burning, but with little to build on and almost no money in the pot, the signs are that it is fast being extinguished. To only ones who can save it are those running world cricket.

So desperate are certain members of the ICC to keep Zimbabwe in the fold - and the reasons are as much to with who supports who in a hugely political environment - that all calls for their Test status to be reviewed are flat batted by those who decide such things with a skill woefully lacking in any of Zimbabwe's batsmen yesterday. But Zimbabwe's continued presence makes a mockery of sport, and it has gone on long enough.



Stuart Matsikenyeri loses his middle stump during Zimbabwe's humiliation by South Africa earlier this year © AFP
Enlarge
For much of last year, Zimbabwe were able to deflect criticism by pointing out that many of their first-choice players were on strike. But against New Zealand, they fielded their strongest side for the first time since March 2004, and on home soil for good measure. That made the outcome even more alarming.

Even the government-backed Herald had seen enough. "Maybe the umpires and the match referee should have ordered the teams to get the second Test underway And it would have been finishing anytime from tomorrow." reflected Lawrence Moyo, who was last month named the country's Cricket Writer of the Year. "If what was on display at Harare Sports Club yesterday is too be reviewed at the highest level then Zimbabwe should not be playing Test matches in the interests of the world's Test match standards."

If the situation is now being questioned so publicly inside Zimbabwe, then the cricketing world - and I don't mean the administrators who are not representative of the rank and file - saw the reality some time back. The ridicule with which yesterday's game was received showed that nobody is fooled. Even in winning inside two days, New Zealand at times appeared to be on cruise control. An outing against a half-decent club side would have tested them more.

The only hope now for Zimbabwe cricket is that they are put into intensive care and relieved of the burden of suffering incessant international drubbings. The endless humiliations will eventually kill the game for good, but with some careful management it might survive. Less exposure to the big guns, more lower-key tours, and some targeted funding could just keep it limping along. But so severe is the problem, that it is possible that things have already gone too far.

Sadly, the latest farrago is likely to be brushed aside, as have all the previous ones, and the integrity of Test cricket, which some claim to put so much store in, will continue to be eroded, along with the future of the game in Zimbabwe.

Stats
Zimbabwe's Test record since April 2004

Let us know what you think

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo

RSS Feeds: Martin Williamson

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Martin WilliamsonClose
Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

    An all-round ODI giant

Numbers Game: Few players can boast the sort of numbers that Jacques Kallis achieved in ODIs

    Is being bowled out by Moeen embarrassing?

Polite Enquiries: Is Rahane India's Misbah? Should Rohit be dropped? Jarrod Kimber and George Dobell discuss

    'We were determined to prove we were not an average team'

Former South Africa wicketkeeper Dave Richardson remembers his favourite moment from the Lord's win in 1994

    'A test of Kohli's mental strength'

Bowl at Boycs: Geoffrey Boycott on Kohli's recent form, and Cook's captaincy

How does one 'lead by example'?

Alex Bowden: A captain needs to do enough as an individual to retain respect and control, but exceptional performances may not result in even greater influence

News | Features Last 7 days

The woeful world of Pankaj Singh

Pankaj Singh greeted his most expensive analysis in Test history with the words 'That is cricket'. It was admirable acceptance from an impressive man of a record he did not deserve

Bhuvneshwar on course for super series

Only 15 times in Test history has a player achieved the double of 300 runs and 20 wickets in a Test series. Going on current form, Bhuvneshwar could well be the 16th

Ugly runs but still they swoon

Alastair Cook did not bat like a leading man but the crowd applauded him for simply not failing

Boycott floored by an Indian trundler

When Eknath Solkar got under the skin of Geoff Boycott, leading to a three-year self-imposed exile from Test cricket

Worst keepers, and honours at Lord's

Also, most keeping dismissals on debut, seven-for at HQ, and youngest ODI centurions

News | Features Last 7 days
Sponsored Links

Why not you? Read and learn how!