Zimbabwe v India, 3rd ODI, Harare July 28, 2013

'I don't think we're mentally sharp enough' - Brendan Taylor

It's an old adage that cricket is a game played mostly in the mind. With India having cruised to an unassailable 3-0 series lead, Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor identified his team's major weakness as their mental frailty under pressure.

"I think [the problem is] mental toughness," Taylor said. "I don't think we're mentally sharp enough. We're just not making the precise decisions at the right time and not putting a real price on our wickets. Too many soft dismissals.

"We all know in the mornings it's a little tricky [to bat] but technically we haven't been good enough. The Indian bowlers, they just keep it nice and simple. They don't give you too much to hit, but if we can get through that initial period and keep wickets in hand there's no reason why we can't catch up and post a decent total."

Taylor is Zimbabwe's most accomplished batsman and part of the reason for their collective failure has been his personal one. In his last eight innings, Taylor has a top score of just 40 and in this series has had to juggle batting, captaining and keeping wicket. He is not panicking yet, though. "I'm a player who hits an extremely large amount of balls when I practice," he said. "It's just [about] continuing to do those things and try to prepare well every game and I'm a believer that if you do that a big score's not too far away."

In all three games so far, Zimbabwe's batting has faltered at crucial moments. In the first match, they lost regular wickets while they should have been accumulating in the middle of their innings, while in the second the middle order frittered away a good start to the chase. Sunday's defeat was the heaviest, but Taylor identified the second defeat as the hardest to stomach.

"The most difficult one for me was the second game when we had an opportunity to win that game, and we dropped Dhawan and we dropped plenty of chances and allowed them to get to 290," he said. "It would have been a different story if we'd caught our catches and probably chased 230-240, we would have gone about our chase a lot differently. It's very frustrating to see, knowing our batting ability and not getting the runs that we know we can get."

Sunday's defeat was also played out in front of the largest crowd of the series. Though the grandstands weren't full, almost all of the smaller stands and the grass banks were. A boisterous crowd weren't given too much to applaud - though they did enjoy the obdurate efforts of Tendai Chatara and Brian Vitori with the bat.

"It hurts," Taylor admitted. "It does hurt because they are passionate and they want us to do well, and today it was a bit disheartening to play the way we have played. But fortunately there's more cricket coming up and we haven't played our best cricket here but hopefully we can give the people of Bulawayo something to smile about.

"There's always pride [to play for]. We use that word a lot, because it's a privilege to represent your country. Just to be playing against the best team in the world, that's an honour in itself."

The series now moves to Bulawayo for the final two matches. While conditions will be similar to Harare and the games will start just as early, the Queens Sports Club pitch has a reputation of being easier to bat on.

"Bulawayo is a bit more friendly in the morning to the batters, though there was a bit there against Bangladesh not too long ago so each side may have to be up against the ball nipping around a little bit," Taylor said. "But that generally burns off pretty quickly and then it gets really good to bat on."

Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town

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