Less than a year has passed since Bangladesh and Zimbabwe clashed but within this short period the complexion of both the sides have changed. For Bangladesh it has been a bumpy ride with few accolades but for our African counterparts it has been a far more tumultuous and unstable journey. The proud side that once boasted match winners such as Price, Streak, Flower and the talented Ervine has been disbanded to be replaced by the ?new? Zimbabwe.
For this ?new? Zimbabwe it has been a constant struggle to continue a legacy of cricket with the stark reality that the white community, which was the heart of their cricket, is diminishing rapidly and unable to replenish the pool of players. In haste a cricket development had to be implemented that could slowly induct the impoverished black majority into a minority pastime. With such developments the emergence of new black clubs such as Takashinga, (currently with six players in the national team, five in the Zimbabwe A team and 21 in the provincial teams), have emerged to keep cricket alive. So it is not entirely surprising that without Takashinga there wouldn?t be a Zimbabwe team today.
To make matters worse, ever since the ICC suspended Zimbabwe's Tests for the rest of 2004, i.e. against Pakistan and England, their test preparations have taken a battering. Australia and afterwards Pakistan declined to play Tests against Zimbabwe forcing embarrassing postponements. With Zimbabwe in such dire straits the average cricket spectator may be forgiven to believe that the strife caused by political turmoil has ruined Zimbabwe cricket. Not so. For beneath the surface are tiny glimpses of talent. Tiny they are but they remain a ?potential? as we have seen how their ODI side put up some spirited performances against major cricketing nations.
It is the potential of fresh youngsters such as Taibu, Panyangara and Mpofu, young men that have replaced the old core of Streak, Price and Flower. It is a core that will be eager to show their prowess in Bangladesh. And even if it is a team made up of rookies such as Panyangara, one of six players directly from their U-19 team, it is vital for Bangladesh not to underestimate them. As an antidote to our overconfidence and a glimpse of their potential it is sobering to take a close look at some of their recent matches. For example, in the U-19 World cup it was Panyangara who demolished Australia by taking 6 wickets for a mere 31 runs 1.
Of all their bowlers, Tinashe Pinyangara, already the leading wicket taker, is hailed as their next lead pacer. But watch out for Christopher Mpofu (who was discovered during a fast-bowling class held last year by the former West Indies bowler Ian Bishop), and showed promise against England.
Another interesting chap is Hamilton Masakadza who is making a comeback to Zimbabwe Test cricket. Debuting with a century against the West Indies at the tender age of 18, Masakadza had been out of Test cricket for 2 years due to study commitments. He returns with confidence after a Test average of 26.69, a half-century in ODI against a full strength England and a century to his name to threaten Bangladesh 2.
Despite such spirited tales of their accomplishments, Sri Lanka inflicted huge defeats in April, and won both Tests by an innings and about 250 runs. To top it off Zimbabwe were later bundled out for a new record ODI low of 35 runs 3. Zimbabwe under Streak never stooped so low!
Bearing in mind this new reality the anxious question remains as to where Bangladesh stands in relation to this new Zimbabwe. Before the rebellion of the 15 players Zimbabwe was a competitive team; they had a good bowling combination of Price and Streak; a good fielding side and above all batted deep down. And wasn?t one of the paramount factors for our earlier defeats due to matchwinners such as Streak or flashes of genius from players such as Sean Ervine, Friend and Price? So for Bangladesh it will be interesting to see if their inherent strengths have diminished and if their weaknesses have been exacerbated. Yesterday these strong performers: the pace of Streak; the Spin of Price and the batting of Flower could easily put a game out of reach for Bangladesh. Today it will not be as easy.
The tables have been turned and we see that Bangladesh players with more experience have displaced Zimbabwe in individual merit 4, 5. The tables have turned so much that during the recent ODI series against England, Ian Bell rated Zimbabwe's standard, "as equal to the standard of English county cricket teams". Furthermore, in July 2004, a near full strength Zimbabwe team lost heavily to an India A team, which was made up entirely of fringe players. Only one of the three four days matches went into the final day 6, 7, 8.
Finally considering how well Bangladesh played against India in the one day series and the improvement of key bowlers such as Tapash, Masrafe and Rafique, it is quite realistic to dream of a few wins. The crucial litmus test will be the test series as it will vindicate or throw in doubt how much Bangladesh has gained experience and thus whether they have acquired an edge over Zimbabwe. It is ?now or never? and considering all the perspectives the bottom line is that the series will be a true watershed.
- 1. Australia U-19 vs. Zimbabwe U-19 scorecard
- 2. H Masakadza
- 3. Zim vs. Sri LAnka, 1st test, Harare
- 4. Batting comparison between BD and old ZIM
- 5. Bowling comparison BD - "old" Zim
- 6. India A in Zimbabwe scorecard
- 7. India A in Zimbabwe scorecard
- 8. India A in Zimbabwe scorecard