Zimbabwe need to inspire in dark times
Match factsTuesday, August 27, 2013
Start time 0930 local (0730 GMT)
Big PictureWhat must a young, upcoming cricketer in Zimbabwe feel right now? He would be told he has to follow in the footsteps of the Flowers and the Streaks. What he sees are the Ervines and the Ballances, who choose to play cricket in another country. He would be told he has to derive inspiration from the exploits of the Zimbabwe side of the 90s. What he sees is a national team struggling to come up with even a single performance that would inspire him. He wants to believe his life can be all about cricket, only cricket. All around him, there are signs that show such a belief is just not sustainable in practice, at least in Zimbabwe.
He hears seniors talk about how difficult it is to provide for their families, he sees the national side threaten to stop playing till they are promised better wages. Two days after the board promises, he sees one of his heroes, fast bowler Kyle Jarvis, all of 24, quit international cricket so that he can play the game for counties and franchises and make some money while his body lasts. He spots a chilling sentence in Jarvis' media statement that thoroughly shakes him up, beliefs and all. "I informed my team-mates yesterday that I would be leaving and they were supportive and fully understood why I was doing this." Half-prepared to give up the game, he looks around for some hope, some sign that everything is not lost for Zimbabwe cricket, where those who choose to stay on support those who choose to leave.
And then Brendan Taylor and his men go down without a fight to Pakistan in the format in which they were supposed to have the best chance of causing an upset. Zimbabwe lost both Twenty20 internationals by considerable margins, their batsmen falling to the Pakistan spinners, who took a combined 4 for 67 and 5 for 75 in the two matches. If they couldn't compete with Pakistan for 40 overs, what chance do they stand over 100 overs?
If they couldn't stop Jarvis from leaving, what chance do they have of preventing others who give up on the country in the future? If this continues to happen, what chance more and more young, upcoming players won't quit either Zimbabwe or cricket much earlier than Jarvis did?
No money from the board, no fight from the players, no inspiration for the followers. Money won't come around for a while, but that should not stop Taylor and his men from putting up a fight. Especially in these dark times, that is the bare minimum the followers of Zimbabwe cricket deserve. We can all do with some inspiration.
Form guide(last five completed matches, most recent first)
Players to watchAs if all the responsibility of being Zimbabwe's leading batsman and captain wasn't enough, Brendan Taylor also dearly needs to rouse his side at this juncture, with both words as a leader and deeds with the bat. That this hasn't been a productive season for him won't help, but form as a constraint fades before the enormity of the task in front of him.
Nasir Jamshed was dropped from the Test side for this tour after just two games against a tough opponent like South Africa. He's spoken about how disappointed he felt, and how he plans to make a come back with good limited-overs performances. He could not do much in the T20s, now comes the format in which he's impressed the most.
Captain Misbah-ul-Haq, Abdur Rehman and Asad Shafiq are the additions to the Pakistan squad for the ODIs in place of Sohail Tanvir, Zulfiqar Babar and Sohaib Maqsood, although there was a case for keeping the inexperienced batsman Maqsood around the team for the ODI leg.
Pakistan (possible) 1 Nasir Jamshed, 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Mohammad Hafeez, 4 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 5 Asad Shafiq/Umar Amin, 6 Shahid Afridi, 7 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 8 Saeed Ajmal, 9 Asad Ali/Abdur Rehman, 10 Junaid Khan, 11 Mohammad Irfan
In another unfortunate reminder of how things are, Zimbabwe announced their 18-member ODI squad late on the eve of the first ODI, but it remains to be seen what XI features for the game.
Zimbabwe (possible): 1 Vusi Sibanda, 2 Hamilton Masakadza, 3 Sikandar Raza, 4 Brendan Taylor (capt & wk), 5 Malcolm Waller, 6 Sean Williams, 7 Timcyen Maruma, 8 Shingi Masakadza, 9 Prosper Utseya, 10 Brian Vitori, 11 Tinashe Panyangara
Stats and trivia
- Pakistan have won 12 of the 15 ODIs they have played in Zimbabwe against the hosts. Zimbabwe were able to win one and tie another, but both those matches were back in 1995
- Shahid Afridi has played 354 ODIs for Pakistan, and needs three games to overtake Wasim Akram. Only Inzamam-ul-Haq is in front after that, with 375 matches for his country
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo