Zimbabwe: lost souls, bare cupboards, and butterfingers © Getty Images

If the early part of the Champions Trophy needed something less than torrential rain, it was a one-sided game played out in front of yawningly empty stands. Unfortunately, that's exactly what it got, as Zimbabwe, despite winning the toss, crumbled to 85 all out, and could not send down 15 overs before West Indies skipped past the finish line.

The pitch wasn't an out-and-out batting beauty to begin with, but at this level you do expect something for the fast bowlers early on. West Indies' fast bowlers were bang on target - not something they can always be credited with. Jerome Taylor was a yard too quick for the batsmen once he'd hit his straps, and Ian Bradshaw was as parsimonious as ever, more nagging - outside the off stump - than your average housewife. The end had begun in 3.1 overs.

Chamu Chibhabha was bowled off his front pad, Hamilton Masakadza nailed by Taylor, Tafadwa Mufambisi did his deer-in-the-headlights impression to a bouncer and was caught behind, Brendan Taylor ran himself out and Stuart Matsikenyeri poked at one that moved away enough to take the edge. All that happened in pretty much the time it took to write that sentence. Before they could even get warmed up, Zimbabwe were 39 for 5, and even the best sides in the world need minor miracles to recover from such positions.

Only three batsmen made it to double figures, and the biggest - if that's the word - partnership was 24, that too for the eighth wicket. For the eighth time in their history, Zimbabwe had folded for a sub-100 score. It's desperately difficult to be critical of this Zimbabwe team because of everything that has gone into its making. It's really not the fault of this group - the average age is 21, and, significantly, hardly any of them has sizeable first-class experience - that they have been thrust into the international scene. Their domestic troubles, organisational and otherwise, have been well documented.

But, if they want to ensure that their status as a one-day nation does not go the way the longer version did, they simply have to show more bottle. It's something Kevin Curran, the coach, has been stressing on for some time now. In fact, Zimbabwe did not need to look too far back for inspiration. In their most recent ODI against South Africa they were set 419 for victory. Knowing full well that they didn't stand a chance - cricket being a funny game and all those clichés notwithstanding, they buckled down, forgot about the match as a contest, and batted. In 50 overs they managed 247 for four, never really trying to accelerate, with Terry Duffin and Masakadza picking up half-centuries. If they at least show that intent, there would be the hope that this was a team that deserved encouragement rather than condemnation. But to simply throw it all away, imploding to 85 in one ball more than 30 overs, helps no-one's cause.

And when you get one chance in the field, as Chris Gayle provided with a slice towards mid-on, you run hard, throw yourself if you must, and hang on to it for dear life, not let it spill, as the captain did. What sort of example does that set? One that Anthony Ireland, at third-man, took to heart when Gayle, only a few balls after the first miss slashed uppishly, and dropped another catch that most club cricketers would pouch. There was really very little Zimbabwe could take out of this game, done and dusted before the scheduled half-time break, and sadly, there was less for the spectators, and that's a pity.

The transformation of the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium is staggering. Previously, when you were here to cover a match, you climbed high into the stands and reached a hot, uncovered press-box that hadn't been cleaned in months, where families of pigeons would shower down their blessings from the rafters. This was the press box; the fans had it much worse.

Now, every stand is covered, a majority have individual bucket-seats, not those concrete benches that warm like ovens and toast your bums by half-time. The outfield is even, and lush green. The airconditioned press box is perched high above the stands, looking down on those damn pigeons. The capacity has been expanded to 54,198, and that was about 50,000 more seats than were needed. Perhaps thinking of the plight of the fans, Gayle offered a third chance, which was accepted, giving the fans a chance to watch Brian Lara bat. They did - for precisely 16 minutes, with one four and two glorious sixes, before it was time to go home.

Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo