World Cup worries on the increase December 23, 2006

Curran under fire as results grow worse

Steven Price in Harare

Send us your thoughts on the state of Zimbabwe cricket. Have they turned the corner and have they shown enough to suggest they can compete at Test level?

Zimbabwe's recent poor results have led to renewed calls for Kevin Curran, the coach, to be replaced and also for more effort to be made to entice leading players who have walked away from the national game to return. The latter seems increasingly unlikely as the World Cup draws closer, but the former is a growing possibility

Curran has never been popular among some sections of the media and, so Cricinfo has learned, among certain players, but in fairness to him he has been faced with rebuilding a side decimated by internal squabbling and the much-publicised player exodus. However, while defeats in South Africa and in the Champions Trophy were not unexpected, the way the side performed was not well received, and a 5-0 series whitewash in Bangladesh finally saw the veneer of acceptance disappear.

Curran returned to Zimbabwe clearly unhappy with what had gone on in Bangladesh, and he added to potential discontent within the camp when he publicly called for some senior players to be axed for "playing wrong cricket at the wrong time". Given the paucity of people knocking at the door for inclusion in the squad and his own fragile standing, it was not the most tactful of remarks.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's Independent reported that Ozias Bvute, the board's managing director and a man not renowned for his cricketing pedigree, had offered his dollar's worth. "The board will meet to review Zimbabwe's performances but we have a challenge ahead of the World Cup," he reportedly said. "But in the true nature of being Zimbabwean, we believe no challenge is insurmountable." A less tactful source said it would be more accurate to say that Bvute was probably blissfully unaware of how bad things were rather than a born optimist.

That view gathered credence when Bvute's comments about Zimbabwe's return to Test cricket in November 2007 was raised. When the ICC feebly rolled over and agreed to them being readmitted a few months ago, it seemed a poor idea and one that stunk of compromise - Peter Chingoka, the ZC president, may have many critics here, but he can smooth talk the world's cricket administrators to good effect.

"It's too early to rule out Zimbabwe's return to Test cricket," Bvute said. "We have arranged a number of four-day matches and we'll assess the team's competitiveness in the long run. But our guys impressed in their last four-day game against Bangladesh, who people should admit are an improving side. Even Australia have struggled against them." It may have escaped Bvute's notice, but Bangladesh were not anywhere near full strength as their main side were playing ODIs against Scotland at the time.

In any other country these latest events would be seen as a real worry so close to the World Cup. In Zimbabwe, it passes for just another week.