Alistair Campbell: Masakadza proves benefit of meritocracy

What a Test Match! We looked down and out after the first day having been dismissed for a paltry 131. The West Indies batted well on what looked like a wearing pitch to take a lead of 216. We seemed to be heading for another convincing defeat and cricket generally on and off the field seemed to be in total disarray going into a new season.

What transpired not only made a little bit of history but has given cricket the shot in the arm that it needed and hopefully we will be able to move forward as the game was in a very real danger of collapsing.

Credit must go in no small part to Hamilton Masakadza, who at 17 years of age became the youngest centurion on debut, eclipsing the previous record held by Saleem Malik of Pakistan.

It was an innings of great maturity, far beyond his 17 years. His strength of mind and good technique make me feel he has a long and fruitful career ahead of him in international cricket.

There were many other contributions of note in what turned out to be our highest Test score of 564 for 9 declared.

Wishart recording his highest Test score of 94 and Andrew Blignaut reaching his highest of 92. Had the foul weather not intervened on the last day - who knows what might have happened. I believe we would have pulled it off but I guess we will never know.

Hamilton Masakadza's brilliant innings has proven that there is a wealth of talent waiting in the wings. The Zimbabwe Cricket Union's development program has proved that it is doing a good job, but it must capitalize on this and move from strength to strength. I can only hope that those various politically motivated persons realise the talent that is available and if properly nurtured will render the quota system and its like methods of the past. This will ensure that the Zimbabwean Cricket Team will be represented by 11 players on merit naturally reflecting the "face of Africa".

The game of cricket in Zimbabwe has the capacity to expand to such huge proportions and if properly played and administrated the sky is the limit. There is still a long way to go and many obstacles are still in the way, not least the press, who after Masakadza's great vigil ran with the headlines: "Masakadza proves Racists wrong". I find this abhorrent but this is what cricket needs to overcome.

South Africa are our next opponents in September. It will be another real test for us but hopefully strengthened and buoyed by where our cricket is heading, we can put on a good show. Who knows what might happen! As the old cliché goes - "Cricket is a funny game". Isn't it just!