We’ve seen this film b e f o r e . Zimbabwe is in a strong position controlling a match, then a poor spell with the bat or ball inevitably comes during a decisive moment which leads to another defeat.
Such was the scene in the first test against Sri Lanka where, after Zimbabwe posted a decent 358 all out in the first innings, they let Sri Lanka reach a mammoth 515-9 before they themselves were bowled out for a paltry 178 runs in their second innings, leaving Sri Lanka with the simple task of chasing 14 runs for victory to easily take the first test by 10 wickets.
Then something interesting happened in the second test. Rather than just merely show flashes of potential like they do fairly often, the Chevrons responded with the tenacity that was sorely needed as they took the fight to Sri Lanka.
A superb fifth-wicket partnership of 159 by captain Sean Williams and Sikandar Raza built on a solid foundation for Zimbabwe in their first innings of the second Test, where they eventually reached an excellent return of 406 all out.
They turned a good performance with the bat into an even better one with the ball as they restricted Sri Lanka to just 293 in their first inning total.
The Chevron’s fine form continued into their second innings, and were it not for rain Zimbabwe might have put Sri Lanka to the sword as they were eventually forced to settle for a draw of the fifth day.
The encouraging strong finish comes as Zimbabwe Cricket is once again at a cross roads where they are looking to freshen up the aging Chevrons core by introducing some new players.
In the build up to Zimbabwe’s two-match Test series against Sri Lanka have 9 players in a 25-man provisional squad were yet to be capped at cricket’s highest level.
Of the players called up, Mountaineers Kevin Kasuza got the nod to start for Zimbabwe, and the 24 year old batsman acquitted himself well in the series, with first two fine first innings performances of 68 and 38 respectively.
He would have surely added to his totals in the second innings of both matches had he not unfortunately had to be withdrawn due to concussion protocol in both instances.
He was a difficult proposition for the opposition which even Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne admitted in his opening press conference, although it was largely also due to the fact that the Sri Lankan had no footage of him playing to work out his tendencies.
Apart from Kasuza, another youngster Brian Mudzinganyama also got a run out for the national side, albeit under difficult circumstances as he was Kasuza’s concussion protocol replacement in the second test.
The rest of the squad are all in their mid-thirties. Brendan Taylor, Sikandar Raza, Craig Ervine, Sean Williams, are all 33 or older.
The problem this highlights is the fact that Zimbabwe Cricket is heavily reliant on these players who still do have many years of service, are closer to the end of their careers than the administration is prepared to admit. In fact if you were to take those players away, as you would surely have to in five or so years’ time, then Sri Lanka could well have whitewashed the Chevrons in their first home test series in over one and a half years.
So who can come and eventually replace them? That is the million dollar question that Zimbabwe Cricket has been trying to answer quietly for the past two years.
The unfortunate reality is that the talent pool for cricketers in Zimbabwe, much like any other sporting discipline, lacks funding and the local league lack the competitiveness that is required at the highest level of cricket.
This is not to say the players playing in the Logan Cup for example, are not trying their best in these difficult time