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Zimbabwe in West Indies, 2006

Mbangwa pities Zimbabwe's young guns

Cricinfo staff

May 3, 2006

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Pommie Mbangwa is in the West Indies commentating on television for Zimbabwe's one-day series © Getty Images
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Pommie Mbangwa, the former Zimbabwe bowler, has bemoaned the state of cricket in his country and has pleaded with officials to "agree on a way to move things forward". Mbangwa, commentating for television in the West Indies where Zimbabwe are involved in seven one-dayers, has expressed his sadness that such an inexperienced side was sent to the Caribbean: before the series started, the entire squad had played just 176 one-day internationals between them.

"There have been problems in Zimbabwe cricket for a long time and they have been out there for everybody to see," he said. "It is very sad the problems obviously have not been solved, or else you would see a completely different side out there on the field, and Zimbabwe would not have been one of the whipping boys of world cricket over the last few years."

Mbangwa made reference to Zimbabwe's previous tour of the West Indies six years ago, when they came close to beating the hosts and showed promise. And four years ago, the West Indies narrowly avoided losing the one-day series during their tour of Zimbabwe.

"Unfortunately, things have gone pear-shaped about the same time that Zimbabwe had been able to get a side together that in time would have been very competitive," he said.

"All of the things said by the players that have chosen not to play for Zimbabwe must hold some water. Collectively, anybody who has any love for Zimbabwe cricket has to come together, and accept that things have been done wrong in the past, and agree on a way to move things forward."

He added that it would have been thrilling to see some of the more experienced Zimbabwe players - such as Andy Flower, who is currently playing for Essex, and Heath Streak who is captaining Warwickshire - come back and play for the country again.

"It's all they would love to do once they are still active and playing cricket," he said. "Here we have a side [whose] average age is around 20-years-old, and what is sad is that you have young players learning the game against players twice their age and several times their experience," he said.

"This is what the problems between the board and the players have brought on Zimbabwe cricket, and the sooner it's sorted out, the better."

Though Zimbabwe have surprised the West Indies with their competitiveness in the two one-dayers so far, Mbangwa was nevertheless sorry for the players who, given their lack of experience, should not be playing so soon against such tough opposition.

"It's unfair to them," he said. "It may be alright that one or two may stand out and people may say they have talent, but for the others, who don't quite get things right, they are coming into the international game five or six years too early.

"How much better it would have been for some of them to play five or six more years of cricket and then turn up as a guy who had talent at the age of 19, worked through his weaknesses, got better, got stronger, got fitter, knew a little bit more about the game, and played 25 or 30 first-class matches?

"The other reason I say it doesn't hearten me, but hurt me is that it could happen again. When these players get a little older, are they going to turn around and say they need this, this, and this, and not get given it, get frustrated, then leave the game, and some other young players turn up?"

Zimbabwe trail West Indies 0-2 in the seven-match series, after back-to-back losses by five wickets and 98 runs on Saturday and Sunday at Antigua. They meet again for the third and fourth matches at the weekend.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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