On the surface Zimbabwe, severely battered by Mark Waugh's Australians, who in turn were smarting from an uncomfortable Sri Lanka sojourn, give the impression that all they need to do is smarten up their fielding act to take on South Africa in Bloemfontein this weekend.
Behind the scenes, however, not all it well between a couple of the more important players and the Zimbabwe Cricket Union. Murray Goodwin and Neil Johnson are, in polite terms, ?pretty brassed off? over their contracts which give lesser players the same sort of financial package as the seniors. And this after a successful World Cup with the ZCU do not seem to accept the general rule is ?better pay for better play.?
Drilled by 10 wickets inside four days in the one-off Test and then crushed 3-0 in the limited-overs slogs, Zimbabwe arrived in South Africa to tackle South Africa with a bruised ego and fresh scar tissue from the back to back nine wickets defeats in the Harare LOIs at the weekend.
Goodwin has already indicated the possibility he would prefer to give up his place in the side an return to Perth as even the state salaries is a better call than the ZCU can out together. Johnson is saying nothing, officially that is, but the all-rounder who put South Africa to the sword in Chelmsford and took a century off the Aussies in the opening LOI in Bulawayo a week ago, is far from happy.
He also, say sources, passed on his views to the ZCU about his thoughts of the contracts. Surprisingly they do not coincide with what the ZCU consider is a ?fair deal? with built in performance related bonuses. Should a side field badly and drop catches even the better players suffer as a result. Just how the boardroom deals are affecting the visitors? mental preparation for the Bloemfontein match, starting on Friday, is another matter.
As it is former Australia captain Allan Border is the sort of shrewd analyst who, having run his rule of thumb over England?s feeble World Cup efforts, wondered, almost out loud a day or two ago, how a team such as Zimbabwe, having caught India and South Africa on their ?off days? slipped into the event?s Super Sixes.
At the time Border was a TV commentator and newspaper columnist. His views, then as now as Australia?s new coach, have not changed. Despite the robust challenge offered Australia at Lord's where Neil Johnson batted with skill, care and the sort of cerebral attention of a confident man who knew what he was about, his game plan was solid and firm: all he lacked to help Zimbabwe through was another couple like him.
Johnson has acknowledge the role Kepler Wessels has played in his upbringing as a provincial all-rounder. Wessels had played under Border for Australia and Queensland and the two have a lot of respect for each other as players and their off-the-field image.
Johnson's admiration of Wessels shows how different is the background between himself and the rest of the Zimbabwe side, Goodwin apart. Most of his high school and adult career has been in South Africa but it is not easy to compete with the Shaun Pollocks, Jacques Kallis' and Lance Kluseners of this world of competitive sport