Bangladesh in Zimbabwe 2013 April 30, 2013

Lack of confidence impeding Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe will soon have to move away from the safety of bits and pieces players and towards specialists. That can only happen if their top-order strengthens and they are can unearth some depth

Brendan Taylor said a worrying thing after Zimbabwe lost a Test against Bangladesh for the first time at home to share the series. He deemed it "not the end of the world," which was fair enough, but he also said he felt the team had progressed overall.

Their sizeable win in the first Test may have partly explained his assessment but their heavy defeat in the second should have prevented him from settling on praise instead of self-examination. From the position they were in, after dominating the first Test, against an opposition that had been spooked into thinking conditions would not suit them, Zimbabwe should not have shared the series.

They should not have lost the second Test either and it seemed a lack of confidence rather than inadequate skills accounted for their defeat. Inexperienced teams are capable of pulling off surprises when they are on top but they struggle to recover when they are against the tide because they often do not believe in themselves enough.

Zimbabwe are a prime example. In the first Test, Taylor's century and solidifying partnerships with Malcolm Waller and Graeme Cremer gave them the advantage. When Kyle Jarvis began tearing through Bangladesh, they did not look back. In the second Test, when Bangladesh put on 300 on day one, Zimbabwe were at a disadvantage. From there, they could not look up.

Sometimes only conviction can change that. Zimbabwe play too infrequently and are too used to being beaten to have built up any of that. They suffer from the small-country syndrome and that may only change when they have the players who can force that turnaround.

For that reason, it may be worth them rethinking their policy of allrounders versus specialists. In a bid to lengthen their batting line-up in this series, Zimbabwe opted for lower-order allrounders like Shingi Masakadza, Keegan Meth and Cremer instead of out and out bowlers like Tendai Chatara, Brian Vitori and Prosper Utseya or Ray Price.

In Masakadza's and Meth's case, it turned out to be the right decisions because they contributed with the bat and had success in their primary role with the ball. In Cremer's case it may not have. Although he was also responsible for lengthening the batting order, his bowling in the second Test was expensive and lacked penetration. A holding spinner may have worked better.

Zimbabwe will soon have to move away from the safety of players who can do a little bit of everything and towards those who do their main task very well. That can only happen if their top-order strengthens and they are can unearth some depth to create competition for places.

At the moment, Zimbabwe centrally contract 10 players and the franchises take care of the rest. The non-centrally contracted players only have deals for a seven-month season and are left without security over how they will earn money in the winter

Before the series started, Stephen Mangongo, the interim coach, proudly declared that Zimbabwe had 75 professional cricketers (15 from each of the five franchises) to choose a national squad from. He didn't mention that only included one opening batsman. Vusi Sibanda had to make do with makeshift partners in both Tests because Tino Mawoyo was injured and Zimbabwe did not seem to have anyone else who could do the job.

Timycen Maruma and Regis Chakabva were used in that position and while both showed some promise, it was not enough. Mawoyo will likely return to the role when fit but the lack of other options should worry Zimbabwe. The only solution will be to go on a scouting mission to each franchise, examine the prospects there and monitor their progress.

Their middle order and bowling stocks seem better supplied but holding on to players has proved difficult because of Zimbabwe's precarious financial situation which may improve with a healthy dose of transparency all-round.

At the moment, Zimbabwe centrally contract 10 players and the franchises take care of the rest. The non-centrally contracted players only have deals for a seven-month season and are left without security over how they will earn money in the winter. This year, ZC introduced winter contracts but the amounts being paid were too little for every player they wanted to retain to accept and they lost some of their men to club cricket gigs overseas.

It was Craig Ervine this time, but it could be anyone else next year. Ensuring there is enough money to run the game is proving tough for Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) but they do themselves few favours through some of their smoke and mirror policies that create and exacerbate uncertainty.

A glaring example was available during this series. ZC refused to comment on the situation with their new coach, Andy Waller, who was present at the ground for most of both matches. He has quit his job in England and he would not have done that to take a holiday so it was obvious why he was there.

ESPNcricinfo understands that Waller has a signed contract to take over as head coach from May 1. ZC could not confirm this, nor explain the reason for him being in the country and in the stadium.

Instead, they continued to play a charade that the board will announce the new coach in due course because they did not want to detract from the ongoing series. What they are waiting for, no-one knows.

After the first Test, Mangongo was asked by one of the members of the local media if he thought the victory would increase his chances of getting the job full time. He swerved past the question and went on to discuss his experience as a coach and his commitment to ensuring the players develop and give of their best.

That will be difficult for them to do when they are not being told the truth about things like who is taking over as their coach and why. It also makes one wonder what else don't they know. Two years ago, Tatenda Taibu revealed they were always unsure of when they could expect payment. Before this tour, a player who did not want to be named, said nothing had changed in that regard, salaries often came late or not at all and questions around them go unanswered.

With that on their minds, it's hardly surprising the players lack faith in the structures they are working in. That has reflected on the playing field. Zimbabwe are a talented crop who have made some strides since their Test comeback in 2011.

They have held on to the core group and players like Kyle Jarvis, Taylor and Hamilton Masakadza have become better. They have found some youngsters with potential and seem to have nurtured them somewhat, like Shingi Masakadza. They have not found the binding ingredient that can marry those individuals into a team that regards itself as one that can win. Real progress will be achieved the day that is not an ideal or a dream but something Zimbabwe can turn into reality, more often than they do now.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Eugene on May 3, 2013, 1:21 GMT

    Maruma can no longer be classed as an allrounder, given that he can no longer bowl and isn't really much of batter either.

  • ZCF on May 1, 2013, 21:56 GMT

    Mangongo instead of Waller I say!!

    In Maruma we have the best batsman in the Logan Cup for close to 2 years. Unfortunately, out of necessity he was used as an opener when he is not. Along with the flashing Matsikenyeri, we will look to him to fill that Craig gap. Crucially Maruma has our all time best FC record by a spinner as well, and would no doubt have demonstrated superior spin than Cremer had he been fit for the 2nd Test and they bowled in tandem.

    What this shows is that we have several young specialist options (Mutombodzi, Maruma, Utseya, Shingi) who will not compromise the strength of the team as bit-part allrounders, but will genuinely perform their primary function like any other specialist in the team, and just happen to be very reliable in another discipline.

    Vitori & Chatara's stamina issues affect their Test prospects, but Vitori will be a real trump card for us in the LOIs. Rainsford's fitness is a factor as well, but Panyangara is an excellent Test seamer reserve.

  • mahjut on May 1, 2013, 17:06 GMT

    SamRoy ... who cares about FC averages when your highest FC score is in a Test, your Test average is heading towards 10 runs better than your FC average and you've passed your FC average in half your test innings and hit half centuries in 1/4, converting one into a massive century against attack that boasted Ajmal and Junaid Khan. Tino's Test ave is better than Keiron Powell (mentioned only because he's an opener who's been stuck with, and they were the last test nation Zim played before BD). I hope for now Zim stick with Vusi and Tino rather than hunt down the Irish openers: Portersfield and Stirling... and although I'd give up one of them for Tamim, I think I'd keep them over Kayes.

  • ZCF on May 1, 2013, 13:50 GMT

    Quite rightly Cremer will lose his central contract when they are revised in August. As it stands, apart from being woeful at Test level, he is no longer first in line for ODIs/T20s, so deserving players will get that spot.

    As demonstrated away from home against aggressive WI batsmen, Mushangwe will fill the attacking legspinner's spot, and if we need that allrounder balance from our leggie, then Mutombodzi who is disciplined and can hold the bat will be a worthy replacement from Mushangwe. Both are clearly better than Cremer!

    Price served us well but he is now old and ineffective. Mutombodzi will take up his contract. Thankfully we have Utseya who will perform that holding role well. Plus he can chip in with a few runs too. He was unfortunate to miss out on this series after doing extremely well for us in the WI tour recently.

    Meth's success has much to do with BD batsmen's ineptitude than ability. We definitely need a specialist seamer and Mpofu will be back from injury soon.

  • maruf on May 1, 2013, 6:14 GMT

    I think cricket will be 8 country's game if icc don't care about bd,zim, Ireland,afgan etc.

  • sam on May 1, 2013, 4:35 GMT

    I think Zimbabwe's fast bowling stocks are fine. Jarvis, Masakadza, Vitori, Meth are alright. Utseya and Ray Price are decent holding spinners as well. They don't have a good attacking spinner but that's not a big deal as they are not a top-tier team. Cremer is a club-level spinner who even yours truly fancies his chances against. Any way, Zimbabwe's biggest problem is their batting. Except for H Masakadza and Brendan Taylor who have been there in the team for last 10+ years there are no other reliable batsman. Sibanda and Mawoyo have first class averages in the high 20s and low 30s and are considered the 3rd and 4th best batsman in the country. Batting stocks of Zimbabwe are worser than Ireland.

  • Dummy4 on May 1, 2013, 3:47 GMT

    may be zimbabwe should encourage their young generation to come to cricket as their are lots of opportunity to earn money by playing cricket. if young generation choose cricket then money will come for sure

  • Eugene on May 1, 2013, 3:25 GMT

    PJ Moor is the solution to Zimbabwe's opening dilemma. Sibanda needs a rest. The following team will serve us well in tests: Moor, Mawoyo, Williams, Taylor, Hamilton Masakadza, Ervine (if available), Waller, Chigumbura, Shingi Masakadza, Ray Price, Kyle Jarvis

  • Anand on April 30, 2013, 21:44 GMT

    Just goes to show what Zim can achieve if only they had a good cricketing structure in place. I guess it all comes down to Zim playing more international cricket. GL to the ZIM cricket team!

  • Ashif on April 30, 2013, 18:31 GMT

    To be really honest about what i saw, Bangladesh could have won the first test if they played a practice match before it. They did not know the conditions better but zimbawe did and therefore they won it comfortably. In 2nd test BD got adjusted to conditions and therefore won.Plus, I even heard how BD players were mistreated and provided unhealthy food and water. BD had to fight through Off-field and on-field and finally they won. Not taking anything away from zimbawe but BD was made to go through a lot of difficulties in which any other test team would have withdrawn from participating the tour and finally This win was earned by BD. Although i would have loved for Bd to win it 2-0.

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