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Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, really was fortunate to be part of the South African domestic competition. Sharpening their skills in that neighbourhood they marched on to win the ICC trophy, and competed in the 1983 World Cup, winning a famous victory over Australia. With gradual improvement the nation was awarded Test status in 1992. Since becoming a Test playing nation, though, Zimbabwe's cricket has failed to make much headway. They have done well in One-day cricket, and qualified for the Super Six phase of the 1999 and 2003 World Cups. In 1999 they beat India and South Africa. With a shaky cricket base and no resolution to their internal crisis the future looks bleak.

Zimbabwe team profile

Published: 12th February, 2004

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Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, really was fortunate to be part of the South African domestic competition. Sharpening their skills in that neighbourhood they marched on to win the ICC trophy, and competed in the 1983 World Cup, winning a famous victory over Australia. With gradual improvement the nation was awarded Test status in 1992. Since becoming a Test playing nation, though, Zimbabwe's cricket has failed to make much headway. They have done well in One-day cricket, and qualified for the Super Six phase of the 1999 and 2003 World Cups. In 1999 they beat India and South Africa. With a shaky cricket base and no resolution to their internal crisis the future looks bleak.

Behind the scenes Zimbabwe still faces looming tensions and anxieties partly as a result of the country?s internal political upheaval. Sadly, its repercussions are felt in their cricket as race has increasingly figured prominently in their selection. The cold truth is that Zimbabwe cricket is still very much a game played and enjoyed by its white population and its long-term salvation will come when more blacks take the game to its heart. Due to a ?player exodus? it could possibly be argued that Zimbabwe has a stronger side off the field than on it. A team of exiles can be named - Campbell, Whittal, Goodwin, Andy Flower, Hick, Masakadza, Johnson, Brant, Nkala, and Murphy.

Having said all that be prepared for a Zimbabwe team with sharp fangs. Judging from their antics against West Indies and India, they are eminently capable of winning decisively against Bangladesh. A composite team both in terms of race and age, Zimbabwe is also a team in transition. At one end of the spectrum Heath Streak, Stuart Carlisle and Craig Wishart form an experienced core with more than 500 one-day internationals between them, whereas youngsters such as Taibu, Matsikenyeri, and Ervine form the future core of their cricket.

Based on a summary of their past performances a few general characteristics, some not uncommon to other new test nations, can be summed up:

Their strengths:

  • A close-knit group - most players have been playing each other for some time now .The Price and Streak bowling combination works well.
  • A good fielding side.
  • They bat deep down.
  • Good balance of youth and experience.

Their weakness:

  • Lack of killer instinct- inability to put out the opposition when in a winning position.
  • Key players can stumble in crucial times.
  • Many key players are plagued by injury problems.
  • Has shown signs of collapse during pressure
  • Establishing a reliable opening pair.

Now these are some of the players who are likely to be selected for the upcoming test matches:

Heath Streak. Age 30yrs. 57 Matches
This man closely exemplifies the adage, ?Your mind truly controls whether you live in Paradise or Hell? and by carrying out his duties as captain in chaos he has shown stellar character. Above all his stamina and determination made him an inspiring and respectful figure in their squad. Streak is a world-class cricketer, a right arm medium fast bowler, who can move the ball around and reverse swing. Since making his debut against Pakistan in 1993 he has been the only Zimbabwean to achieve the double feat of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets. And today, he is 3 wickets from getting his 200th wicket. So far his best bowling figures are 6-87 during a tour of England in 2000. Against Bangladesh it is his batting that created terrible anguish with high scores of 65,67 and 87. Captaincy has not diminished his batting capabilities and the recent test with West Indies gave him the platform to score a high of 127. Batting at positions 7,8 and 9 and consistently producing big scores, he is definitely the anchor of the team. Moreover, his fielding abilities especially his skill at throwing the ball at a great distance will be lethal.
Career avg. Batting22.92; Bowling 197wickets@27.90

Tatenda Taibu (vice captain and wicketkeeper) 21yrs. 12 Matches
Vice-captain Tatenda Taibu and his fellow black teammates are proof that this team is multi racial. Tipped and directly backed by their board as the next captain of the team he is undoubtedly the future face of Zimbabwe cricket. Being a short man, just over 5ft tall, makes him ideally suited to keeping. However, taking over the wicketkeeping from the legendary Andy Flowers has brought on a myriad of problems. The huge responsibility on his shoulders has translated into mistakes on the field and on several occasions he has shown inexperience at first class level. On the other hand his steadfast and committed batting has already brought him one Test and two ODI 50s. Taibu achieved his maiden Test half-century in the series against Pakistan in 2002 and went on to make useful contributions in losing battles of the one-day series. In addition to keeping and batting, Taibu is also a useful bowler as he showed at the under-19 World Cup in 2002, where he was named player of the tournament.
Career avg.- 20.96; 19catches & 2 stumpings

Craig Wishart 30yrs. 25 Matches
After 25 test matches he still has struggled to find his permanent place in the team. Even then he played well against us and scored 118 in the Chittagong match and followed up with a 94 in Dhaka. He has played at various positions but his preferred position is in the middle order. Wherever he plays he prefers an attacking strokeplay and doesn?t like being tied down to the crease. Consequently his tendency to flirt outside the off stump usually leads to his downfall. He played in every game of the 2003 World Cup and started off with 172 not out against Namibia. As such, selectors in the one-day internationals prefer him.
Career avg.-23.62; 15 catches

Andy Blignaut 26yrs. 14 Matches
Probably Zimbabwe's fastest pace bowler and the man that claimed 5-73 against Bangladesh on debut, (Bulawayo, April 2001). Typically, he's an outswing bowler to right-handers combined with pace and aggression. His left-handed batting initially failed to match his bowling, but his flair for uninhibited strokeplay and the variety of shots make him a man to frustrate any bowler. Playing at number 9, which is crucial for his team and especially in the one-day games, he can score very fast as was evidenced by his 54 off just 28 balls against Australia in the recent World Cup. If it is any consolation for us he did not make an impact with the bat against Bangladesh. So it remains to be seen if he can improve on the 91 that he scored against Pakistan just a few months ago. Although he has been in and out of the team he quickly gained momentum and during his come back tour to Pakistan he promptly took 5-79.
Career avg.24.96; 46wickets @34.33

RW Price 28yrs. 16 Matches
Price, the proverbial workhorse of the team, has steadily improved his bowling ever since debuting against Sri Lanka in 1999. After securing a number of 5 wicket hauls he made himself invaluable to his side by recording 6-73 against West Indies in November 2003. Undoubtedly, his competence as a left-arm orthodox spin bowler spinner combined with Herculean stamina, allows him to keep on bowling without end in sight. Bowling over 70 overs in an innings is bread and butter for him. Together with his persistence his main ability is to remarkably turn the ball and this could cause problems. Like many of his teammates he is not shy to take on batting responsibilities lower down the order.
Career avg.9.73; 61@37.97

SV Carlisle 32yrs. 33 Matches
Like many players in the team he owes his recall due to the retirement of Andy Flower and company. One of Zimbabwe's many ex-captains, his experience of captaining the side in Bangladesh when Brian Murphy got injured, will come in handy. He has also been Grant Flowers and Grippers opening partners in the team?s early years. Carlisle is a front-footed batsman who often gets a good start but fails to translate this to three figure scores despite posting more than 1,100 Test runs. His batting dilemma can partly be attributed to the fact that he has batted anywhere from No. 1 to No. 7. Huge scores have eluded him mainly because of his natural propensity for cavalier batting. Also, his failure as a captain, again partly because of the selection chaos in Zimbabwe, has dented his confidence. He will certainly be looking to consolidate his batting for the sake of the team. Bangladesh would need to watch out for him as his form is steadily improving and chances that he could peak next week are not remote. We can safely bet that he is in the middle of resurgence as demonstrated by his polished 118 against Australia in October 2003, which also set a new fourth wicket partnership record for Zimbabwe. Another irritating detail for Bangladesh would be the fact that his fielding has been consistent throughout his career and he holds one of the highest catch figures for his team.
Career avg.25.27; 30 catches

Sean Ervine 22 yrs. 3 Matches
He first represented his country in the under ?19 team and as a 16 year old progressed to the World Cup to play 3 internationals. He bowls medium pace outswing both ways and is showing consistency in a team with many young bowlers struggling to stick to the discipline. As a left-handed batsman he shows a lot of promise and could be the danger man coming in at 6. When he was selected as an international there were doubts about his accuracy but he proved his detractors wrong and returned to take several catches off his own bowling in their recent Australia tour. In tandem with Carlisle he carried Zimbabwe extremely close to a famous victory over India in the VE series. Ervine?s batting in that game was determined and confident and produced not only his first century but the first 200-run partnership of their country's one-day international history. A gifted all-rounder, Ervine is a player going places and could very well emulate his captain?s genius.
Career avg.16.83; 6 wickets @43.00

Grant Flower 34 yrs 65 Matches
Grant has lived in his brother?s shadow but really boosted Zimbabwean cricket with his disciplined attitude. This experienced all-rounder is a solid opener, dependable and a good anchor for the faster batsmen. Grant, like his brother Andy is a grafter, but tends to lose patience faster than his elder brother. A relentless fighter, Grant's dark moment in cricket was being called for throwing. He is also the premier fielder with 45 catches to his name. Statistics may not tell the whole story but Grant's maiden century and unbeaten 201 against Pakistan at Harare in 1995, enabled his fledgling team to record a historic victory. Curiously, ever since his debut 82 against India, in 1992, he has relished batting in sub continental conditions and also has 16 of his 20 centuries against sub continental teams. So we are not surprised to see that he has a high batting average against Bangladesh (48.75) with top scores of 68 and 84 in the first encounter. His batting was less lethal the second time around when we met him in Zimbabwe with scores of 10 and 33. Although batting the full 50 overs in ODI and not at great speed, Bangladesh should be more wary of his left arm spin in the ODIs. That useful off spin provoked all sorts of trouble for the Bangladesh team and in one-day matches he will certainly be a tough cookie.
Career avg; 29.67; 21 wickets@61.48

Travis Friend 25yrs.12 Matches
Primarily a genuine pace bowler, especially if he can generate the pace in Zimbabwe pitches, and potentially a lethal allrounder as his batting has shown. This man has faced Bangladesh only once and got off in spectacular fashion. Coming in at number 9 and scoring 81 raised a lot of eyebrows and he will surely be a man to keep an eye on. Again, with Bangladesh as an opponent, he has the highest batting average. As an icing on the cake, he took the liberty of achieving his best bowling figures of 5 for 31 at the same venue against Bangladesh.
Career avg. 29.80; 24@44.54

DT Hondo 25yrs. 3 Matches
A Medium pace seam bowler who has struggled to make an impact at international level, taking 1-87 in his only Test. Like his counterparts in the team such as Taibu, comes from the same cricketing background, i.e. Zimbabwe Cricket Academy. More of a player of potential than any real danger he still has to make a significant mark in the team. Like most players in the team he is fiercely proud of his batting although his statistics have yet to tell a happy story. In his only Test so far he left Andy Flower stranded on 199 when he was last man out against South Africa. Hondo can be a tricky bowler and has the ability to pick up quick wickets out of nowhere. He gets nothing or lots, has the ability to break partnerships and the tail enders should be careful facing him as he is the one to mop up remaining tail enders.
Career avg.5.33; 4wickets@57.50

Dion Ebrahim 26yrs. 18 Matches
Following his debut against Bangladesh in Bulawayo 2001, he played 18 matches but still lacks consistency. The opener notched a half-century and a ton against Bangladesh. Subsequently, he made three scores of 71 in the space of four Tests and followed that with 94 (his Test best so far) against India at Delhi in March 2002. He scored a fifty in each of the two Tests in Zimbabwe's bleak 2003 England tour, but has struggled in one-day internationals despite being a regular since April 2001. Hardly Zimbabwe's most explosive batsman but has been rumoured to be another contender for the opener slot. His saving grace is a good temperament and a sound technique, which favors him together with Mark Vermeulen as the ideal first wicket partnership for Zimbabwe. His preference for facing pace still needs to be fine-tuned, as he has also been the victim of too many ducks. However, like his fellow teammate Blignaut, he is very quick between the wickets and a brilliant fielder. The team will continue with him and the best strategy for Bangladesh would be to expose him to Rafique and probe his distinct weakness, which is any spin bowling.
Career avg.25.42; 13 catches


S Matsikenyeri 21yrs. 2 Matches
He is another youngster that can be labeled as ?future prospect?. Since his debut appearance as an opener this player has struggled to find his place in the team. Judging from his only test appearances and ODI his favourite shots seem to be the cut and pull. He made a solid 57 and a 46 in the second innings coming in at number 6 during the team?s 1st Test match against West Indies. His promise in the West Indies series led to his promotion up the order in the VB series. Since then he has shown inexperience by executing rash shots outside off-stump without feet movement. Nevertheless, 20-year-old Matsikenyeri is a promising opening batsman who is also developing his off-spin. Additionally, he has played club cricket in Australia.
Career avg.38.67

Blessing Mahwire 22yrs. 4 Matches
Since his debut against Pakistan in 2002 Mahwire has failed to live up to expectations at test level. The fast bowler has only managed a figure of 2-75 in the drawn match against West Indies and other than that he is adjusting to test level after coming in from the U-19 team. After a successful tour of Australia he has really raised his bowling expertise and is expected to be a frontline bowler as he gains more exposure.
Career avg.6.75; 3@119.67

Vusi Sibanda 21yrs. 2 Matches
His impressive performances in the U-19 team and the Zimbabwe academy, which he captained, propelled him to the international scene. A right handed batsman batting potential with a penchant for the pull and cover drive but needs to improve on his shot selection.
A fast-medium outswing bowler
Career avg.9.00

MA Vermeulen 25yrs. 7 Matches
An enigmatic man who has his own mind when it comes to batting. He is the man Zimbabwe had to send back home after persistent misbehaviour problems in their England tour. Since then he has settled down and is honing his batting skills. Unfortunately, he may or may not play against Bangladesh due to his recent injury (which is not the first time it has happened). Streak will sorely miss this opener for our upcoming matches, as he is a crucial man once he settles down. He has the bravado to dominate the opponents with his trademark attacking play but his free scoring tendency also leads him to get out too many times at the wrong time. Another player who is peaking, with a highest score of 118 against West Indies (November 2003 in Bulawayo). It is his experience captaining the Zimbabwe Under-19 team that had a huge impact on his team?s progress and during the U-19 World Cup he saw to it that Zimbabwe achieve relative success.
Career avg.29.14; 6 catches

 

About the author(s): G. M. Bashar is a BanglaCricket supermoderator who is known as "oracle". He is a prolific contributor to our collection of fine articles. In addition to his obvious interest in cricket, he also has a keen desire to be our own version of David Frost - exemplified by the large number of interviews he has taken of key Bangladesh cricket personalities.

 

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