Lenses and a new stance have helped Sibanda
A strange thing happened to Vusi Sibanda when he stopped wearing glasses - he could see. Alright, it wasn't exactly that dramatic, because Sibanda switched to contact lenses instead, but the change resulted in improved vision and, in turn, better form with the bat.
The three years between 2008 and 2010 were particularly blurry for Sibanda. He failed to average over 20 in ODIs in any of them, a disappointing effort after the previous two years, where he maintained healthy one-day averages of over 35. Since the start of 2011 though his form has improved remarkably: he averages 44.00 in ODIs this year, and will be one of Zimbabwe's key players during the upcoming series against Pakistan that starts with a solitary Test on September 1 and will feature three ODIs and two Twenty20 internationals thereafter.
Two days before he got called up to Zimbabwe's World Cup squad, Sibanda made a bold decision to aid his game. "We [Mashonaland Eagles] were playing a four-day game here in Bulawayo against Matabeleland Tuskers and I had to excuse myself to go to the optometrist," Sibanda told ESPNcricnfo. "I had the tests done, got the lenses and came back to continue playing. I was quite nervous and had to stand outside the 30-yard circle while I got used to them."
The change had an immediate impact. "It became easier to pick the line and length of deliveries and I seemed to have a lot more time than I used to have." Also, not having to wear glasses made Sibanda more comfortable at the crease. "It sounds a bit weird, but the glasses would start falling off because of the sweat and it would get annoying because I had to keep putting them back on."
The switch to lenses, that he had delayed for years because he did not like the idea of putting something in his eyes, was just the first of several adjustments Sibanda made to his game. Since 2008, Sibanda has spent a few weeks a year in Sydney with Michael Clarke's mentor Neil D'Costa, where they have worked intensively on a few key areas.
"I used to shuffle a lot in the crease and now I don't have that trigger movement anymore," Sibanda said. "With a more solid stance I can react faster." He still is rushed into a shot sometimes though, particularly by the short ball, and calls himself a "compulsive puller." The shot cost him his wicket four times in the series against Bangladesh. Sibanda dealt well with Bangladesh's spinners on his way to three half-centuries in the series - one in the Tests, two in the ODIs. Still, he maintains that it is the quicks that he prefers to face. "I've always liked pace; spin used to be a bit of a problem for me."
The Bulawayo pitch, where the Test against Pakistan will be played, usually offers the spinners something. Sibanda, though, said he saw a fair bit of grass on the strip when he went to observe it. Even if it does turn, Sibanda's recent form has made him confident he can deal with any conditions.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent