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

    Ronchi's blitz, and remarkable ODI recoveries

Ask Steven: Also, the fastest ODI 150s, and the highest Test totals without a half-century

    Penalty runs the best punishment for slow over rates

Ashley Mallett: Fines and suspensions have had no effect. Awarding the opposition runs for every over a team falls short in a Test innings will definitely bite harder

    Pietersen stars in his own muppet show

David Hopps: His rubbishing of many aspiring English county professionals brings to mind the belief of Miss Piggy that "there is no one in the world to compare with moi"

    How to construct an ODI chase

Michael Bevan: Focus on targets smaller than winning the match, and back your tailenders to deliver for you

The many crickets of an Indian boyhood

Sankaran Krishna: Growing up in India, you play a number of varieties of the game, each developing a certain skill

News | Features Last 7 days

Kohli at No. 4 - defensive or practical?

It seems Virat Kohli is to not bat before the 12th or 13th over to strengthen the middle and the lower middle order. It suggests a lack of confidence in what was supposed to be India's strength in their title defence: their batting

Open with Rohit and Binny, with Kohli at No. 3

India's batting is going the way of their bowling in Australia, and they need get their order sorted before the World Cup

Off-stump blues leave Dhawan flailing

The out-of-form Shikhar Dhawan still has the backing of his captain, but there's no denying his slump has arrived at an inconvenient time for India and his technical issues have to be sorted out before they attempt to defend the World Cup

On TV it looks uglier than it actually is

Often reasonable arguments on the field look nasty beyond the boundary and on camera

'Teams can't have set formula' - Dravid

In the first episode of Contenders, a special ten-part buildup to the 2015 World Cup, Rahul Dravid and Graeme Smith discuss the impact of local conditions on team compositions and the issues surrounding the format of the tournament

News | Features Last 7 days