Nishad Pai Vaidya argues that Zimbabwe have a decent batting line-up, but need to take the attack earlier than they did during the first One-Day International (ODI) against India. Brendan Taylor, the captain is the man for the job and he might merit a promotion in the batting order.
Administrative issues and player exoduses have rocked Zimbabwe cricket in the last decade. Those controversies reduced a competitive unit to a toothless tiger as they picked up the pieces and rebuilt their side. In recent times, they have only shown the odd flashes of brilliance and have a more or less settled unit. The batting in particular has some genuine match-winners and solid players that can steal the game away from the opposition. However, there is something that keeps holding them back and inconsistency is rife for Zimbabwe in One-Day Internationals (ODIs).
If one looks at the individual records of the Zimbabwe batsmen since the 2011 World Cup, one would realise that some of them have been quite consistent. Yet, the results are not very encouraging and somewhere all the hard work gets wasted.
Brendan Taylor and Vusi Sibanda have been consistent and their averages reflect that. They get the big scores and are undoubtedly the mainstays of the batting. However, Taylor is also the aggressor and the responsibility on his shoulders is a lot more. Even if Zimbabwe get off to a decent start, they need him to come good. The other batsmen have done fairly well, but it looks like their efforts have not come as a unit. In 21 games since the last World Cup, Zimbabwe have won a mere six. Here are the numbers of the Zimbabwe batsmen since that tournament:
In the first ODI of the ongoing against India, Sikandar Raza and Sibanda built a good platform battling the tricky conditions early on. However, once they survived that phase, Zimbabwe didn’t quite know how or when to accelerate. In fact, records would suggest that their run-rates have been on the lower side despite them having some good hitters in their ranks. In the 21 matches since the last World Cup, their average run-rate has been 4.69 — which is low considering the modern one-day standards. Their average score is about 220.
For a team that is still considered a ‘’’minnow’’, these figures are not too bad. However, what it does tell us is that there is a lack of experience and exposure. It is astonishing that they have played only 21 ODIs in the last two years. The lack of good match exposure is what is affecting them as they aren’t getting to play the quality teams too many times. Also, they don’t get to visit other countries too many times as only six games (out of 21 ODIs) were played overseas in the last two years. This is affecting their growth and the only way they can prosper is if they are allowed to play the bigger teams on a more regular basis.
That apart, Zimbabwe should make the best of what they have now. As they gear up to face India for the second ODI, they must mull a change in the batting order so that they have more power at the top. Taylor is the man and he has to lead from the front. A promotion for him is in order as he can build on the start and up the ante gradually. Perhaps, Elton Chigumbura also merits a promotion as he seems to be the designated hitter in the line-up. The others have to raise their game and improve their strike-rates to help Taylor in the battle.
As things stand, Zimbabwe cricket is stagnant and needs a push. If they aren’t getting a lot of help from the outside world in terms of number of assignments or overseas tours, the only thing they can do is bring change from within. A few victories against the bigger sides can help in that regard, but when will that time come? The onus is on the batting as that is their stronger department.