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Liam Brickhill in Bulawayo
July 31, 2013
Brendan Taylor has called upon his side's senior players, particularly the batsmen, to "front up" and shoulder the responsibility in the final two matches of the series against India. Though their fielding has hardly been flawless, in all three games so far Zimbabwe's batting, as a unit, has been the major disappointment.
"We're not trying to complicate things," Taylor said before a nets session in Bulawayo. "We don't want to dwell on things too much. We don't want to put the players under too much pressure, but the fact is that we do need to turn up and put in better results.
"Our bowlers haven't done much wrong. They've been in good form and if we'd held our catches they would have had a lot more reward. They've been doing the right things. I think the batters need to back them up a little better, and certainly in the field we could be sharper."
Taylor himself hasn't been blameless in Zimbabwe's poor showing. With just 35 runs in three innings, he hasn't given his team the runs they need. As Zimbabwe's premier batsman and a vital cog in the middle order, totals are built around him and chases rely on his input.
Taylor may fancy his chances of finding some form at Queens Sports Club, where he's second only to Grant Flower in terms of runs scored. In 23 innings at the ground, Taylor has 799 runs at an average of 38.04 with a century and six fifties.
"It has always been a very good batting surface and it has been harsh on the bowlers," Taylor agreed, "but during the winter period, the morning session is crucial and bowlers have to try and capitalise then. You have to be batting at your best to get through that. I don't want to take anything for granted, but if you do give yourself a good opportunity and give yourself a bit of time out there it certainly does get easier and you can certainly reap the rewards."
Time in the middle isn't something any of Zimbabwe's batsmen have had too much of recently. The team spent 10 weeks in a training camp to prepare for India's visit, with a three-day game against Australia A their only serious match practice. Lack of fixtures is, of course, a perennial problem for Zimbabwe, and Taylor suggested that the current series and visits from Pakistan and Sri Lanka later this year represented vital opportunities for exposure and experience.
"That's something we've been crying out for for a long time and fortunately we've got India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in a three-four month period, so that's fantastic," he said. "But we need to be touring more, we need to be playing a lot more.
"We can't ask for a better period than the one we have right now and we need to make sure that we turn up as individuals and as a team because the world's watching, and we need to show the world that we're a good enough side - and we are. But it's time for individuals to step up. The senior players, the most experienced players, need to front up and make it happen.
Despite the 3-0 scoreline, Taylor insisted that getting his troops motivated for the final two matches wouldn't be a problem. "We know we're up against a good side and we probably are expected to lose, but we know if we play our best cricket we can win.
"We should have won the second one-dayer and we let that slip. We're very lucky to have the job that we have, so motivation is not an issue. The guys are still working hard and trying to cover all bases pretty well. Tomorrow is just a new day and we'll be up for it more than ever."
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape TownFeeds: Liam Brickhill
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Stats highlights from the first day of the second Test between Australia and India in Brisbane