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What the current Zimbabwe side might look like were it not for politics and politicians
August 16, 2007
The return of Tatenda Taibu to international reckoning only serves to highlight what might have been had dozens of Zimbabwean players not been driven abroad either by the country's deteriorating political situation or the behaviour of its cricket board. We take a look at what the current side might look like in a perfect world.
Trevor Gripper (31, 2003-04)
Not a crowd-pleaser by any measure, Gripper - who scored 60 against Australia on his debut - was, however, what was needed at the top of the order and what Zimbabwe have failed to find since - a solid and reliable batsman who could see the shine off the ball and grind bowlers down. But he was one of the rebels and his father, Ray, a former national cricketer himself, was viewed by the establishment as being a troublemaker. Gripper jnr went on to play for a season in England before retiring.
Grant Flower (36, 2004)
While brother Andy has retired and gone into coaching, Grant continues to play for Essex and remains supremely fit - the reason he is included despite being at veteran status. While his bowling is used far less than it was, he remains a reliable middle-order batsman. His career effectively ended with the strike where he emerged as an authoritative spokesman for the players.
Stuart Carlisle (35, 2005)
An athletic fielder and capable batsman who would probably have done better had he not been forced to bat up and down the order as needs demanded, he was an ever-present in the side, scoring a hundred against Australia on the tour before the rebel strike, of which he was a part. Unlike many others he returned to Zimbabwe in 2005, scored another Test hundred, and then quit for good saying: " I am fed up by what is happening and I just walked away. I'm tired of the politics."
Tatenda Taibu (wk, 24, 2005)
Another who quit, walking out in November 2005 after his family was threatened by people with links to the game. He tried to forge a career in Bangladesh, England and Namibia but struggled, and returned to play for the side in July 2007 (he had always maintained a home in the country). The one class act in the current side, he can keep, bat, and bowl seam, and few would have moaned had he been picked in the ICC World XI in 2005.
Travis Friend (26, 2004)
A fast bowler and hard-hitting front-foot batsman, he overcame a serious injury but, like so many, his career ended when he joined the rebels. He played briefly for Derbyshire before drifting out of the professional game.
Andy Blignaut (29, 2005)
An allrounder who bowls fast and hits the ball hard, and a good fielder as well - not to mention a male model - he clashed with authority more than once and it was no surprise when he joined the rebels in 2004. He returned after unsuccessful stints with Tasmania and Durham, but then refused to play when the board was unable, or unwilling, to pay him and others their dues. The money remains outstanding, Blignaut remains in South Africa. The loss in Zimbabwe's.
Heath Streak (capt, 33, 2005)
To many people, the likes of the Flowers and Streak epitomised Zimbabwe cricket in the early 2000s. Streak was their very own Shaun Pollock, and the rock of the side with bat, ball and inspiration. He tried to remain above the increasing politics but in 2004 he led the rebels in the standoff and bore the brunt of the resulting firestorm. Nevertheless he returned in 2005, but when offered the chance to captain Warwickshire in 2006 he took it and that effectively ended his international career. He is not the player he was, but he would still walk into any Zimbabwe side.
Anthony IrelandOne of the next generation, Ireland was from the post-Streak era and the kind of cricketer that Zimbabwe had to hold on to. While his performances with the ball were not outstanding, he showed enough promise to be signed by Gloucestershire immediately after the 2007 World Cup and there is little doubt that he would have been - and possibly still could - be a bedrock of the national side.
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