Zimbabwe Cricket

Too much, too young

Steven Price

December 7, 2007

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According to commentator Dean du Plessis, Zimbabwe's are suffering because of their rapid rise to international level © Getty Images
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As Zimbabwe Cricket continues to hog the limelight on and off the field, Dean du Plessis, a top cricket analyst and commentator in Zimbabwe, says the board must return to the old system of player development and selection on merit.

"The way forward is very simple," du Plessis says. "We have got to bring back a lot of the former players. Not because the current players are not good enough, there's a lot of talent in these young players, and I mean seriously talented cricketers, but they need to go through the system like those other players.

"All these other players went through the system, and I'll speak in particular of the non-white players, such as Henry Olonga, Pommie Mbangwa, Tatenda Taibu, Bernard Pswarayi, Brighton Watambwa, all these guys had a correct system, none of these players that are playing now had a correct system."

du Plessis says the fall of the domestic structure in Zimbabwe has led the game to the brink of collapse. "First of all in the past they played club cricket. For example you had a young Trevor Madondo facing the likes of [Heath] Streak and [Eddo] Brandes at club level," he said. "Then if you did well there it was one step further, you would proceed to the Logan Cup level.

"Bear in mind in those days in one-day cricket when the likes of Madondo were around making their debut, there was no such thing as a bouncer. You were not allowed to bowl short-pitched deliveries. Now you are allowed one per over.

"When Madondo or Dion Ebrahim or Alester Maregwede made their debuts for Mashonaland, or whoever they were playing for that time, suddenly they had to adjust their game plan because guys like Eddo Brandes, who we all know was a very good bowler, and Streak, were able to bombard them with bouncers. But if they still passed the test, they then went one step further. They then represented what was known as the Zimbabwe Board XI. So it was basically like a Zimbabwe A side."

He explains how the system in the past was successful: "The A side in those days used to play against South African provincial sides in the B section of the Supersport Series. Fine it was the B section, but it was a lot more competitive than our Logan Cup. So if the likes of Ebrahim got a hundred or Olonga took five or six wickets, they had still proved themselves like any other cricketer should. Only when they proved themselves at every level, club level, Logan Cup level, then the Board XI, then, and only then, did they play for Zimbabwe. It wasn't just a huge jump.

"For example Johnson Marumisa went to the ICC World Twenty20. Fine he didn't play, but that man had never represented Zimbabwe at any form of international cricket. Yet he was in the Zimbabwe side simply because he was quite impressive at club level. You cannot gauge a player by playing club cricket. He has to go through the system. And that is what every single one of those players I mentioned went through.

"Taibu, we all know what a good cricketer he is, Olonga, well, he was an injury-prone cricketer, but I tell you what, when he was on the park he was special. As was Watambwa, although his work ethics you had to question, his heart wasn't on the game, he had other things on his mind. But he was a seriously talented cricketer, Brighton's talent came naturally, he didn't even have to work on it, and the list is endless."

They are not ready to play yet, and at the end of the day, not only is it Zimbabwe that are not benefiting because they continuously get beaten, but think of the cricketer himself

du Plessis says players are being fast-tracked into the national side, thereby exposing their insufficient development. "At the end of the day it's all well and good, we all want the masses to be playing cricket...well I certainly do because it's the way forward," he said. "As a white man I'm telling you that if there were 11 black men out there on merit I would be very proud to support my team. If there were 11 white men out there I will still be proud to support my team.

"But unfortunately what is happening now is that these guys are being picked for various reasons. They are not ready to play yet, and at the end of the day, not only is it Zimbabwe that are not benefiting because they continuously get beaten, but think of the cricketer himself. You are responsible for destroying his career because he is not ready to play international cricket.

"So he goes out knowing that he has to perform. And he is not going perform because he is not ready yet. You know what damage you are doing to his confidence?"

du Plussis, probably the best commentator left in Zimbabwe despite being blind, believes he has suffered for his criticism of Zimbabwe Cricket's administration. He has been sidelined from doing commentary for the current ODI series against West Indies.

"I have made some comments and remarks about cricket in this country in the past that haven't gone down well with Zimbabwe Cricket," he said. "But they weren't unjust, they were fair, and I speak my mind and I will never change that until the day I die.

"If a guy needs a compliment I will compliment him, but if he's played badly, or if the administrator is not running the cricket the way it should be then I will mention it, because that is my job. And if they don't like it then change the radio station or go and watch another channel, or watch cartoon network."

Steven Price is a freelance journalist based in Harare

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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