Very few are there, but even those die-hard local cricket fans have had enough. The hand-written signs that were held up during a fan protest recently summarize the whole situation. “Zim cricket players should be arrested and face treason!!” One placard screamed. “We cannot support disaster, catastrophe and quagmire of epic proportions”, moaned another.
The backdrop to Zimbabwe’s cricketing disaster is a relatively cold, dry winter of hardship. A nationwide economic crisis, repeated water cuts have now started demolish the country. Zimbabwe Cricket also have cash problems of their own: they are believed to be USD 19 million in debt. This is nothing new, but Zimbabwe’s position and stature in this constantly changing global cricket is also shifting drastically and the stakes have started to get higher.
Making the situation worse, their team continues to slide down the ICC rankings. They haven’t played enough Tests recently to secure a rating – as a result, they are just 10th by default – and now face a possibility to compete in a qualifying tournament to make the 2019 World Cup. Failure to do so would eventually bring financial ruin.
Recent some backroom incidents have added to Zimbabwe’s worries. Dav Whatmore’s exclusive package could set them back more than USD 400,000, according to an unnamed source in the local media. Discussion over Whatmore’s departure, 18 months into a four-year contract and just days before India reached the country, has mostly been drowned out by crying at the horrible cricket.
There is no doubt, the sudden departure of a head coach who had nurtured the team to one-off wins over New Zealand, India and Pakistan and a sensational series win against Ireland; must have shaken Zimbabwe’s dressing room. When he was appointed as a coach before the 2015 World Cup, Whatmore made it clear, his eyes were quite “open” to the actual situation of Zimbabwean cricket.
Interim coach Makhaya Ntini’s energy is for sure undeniable, but the players look completely lost in the wilderness of Africa and after a pathetic first series, new batting coach Lance Klusener must be thinking what he has got himself into.
Klusener happens to be the latest person in a revolving door of consultants, captains and coaches for Zimbabwe cricket since India toured this country around this time last year. The absence of quality series – a factor which might be taken as another symptom of Zimbabwe’s ongoing troubles. Show some mercy for Graeme Cremer, Zimbabwe’s fourth captain in 11 months. What will be his next move?
Meanwhile, his counterpart MS Dhoni is actually enjoying his holiday mood. Even the tour stats are crazy. Zimbabwe lost 29 wickets for 417 runs in the three-match one-day series, whereas India expended only three batsmen cruising to 428 runs in 35 fewer overs.
The bowlers are not striking, yes that’s true but the batting seems to be worst off which contributed an average of 14.38 runs per wicket in the ODIs. Injuries to Sean Williams and Craig Ervine have not helped either, but fragile batting is nothing new for Zimbabwe, and it actually points towards deeper issues.
In his recently published memoir of his time in Zimbabwe as national coach, Alan Butcher revealed that Hamilton Masakadza’s mental approach when came to bat used to be: “I’m thinking ‘I mustn’t fail’.” This single statement indicates the generally defensive mindset among the players. It was made four years ago. Has anything changed since then? Zimbabwe find themselves right back where they once started. The problems are actually deep-rooted, and there are no such solutions in the short term.
You cannot blame only the players. They are what they are. It’s the system which needs to be changed. This group of players is probably Zimbabwe’s best available cricketers the current system can offer.
They cannot control this ship, nor have they ever been. The contracts, the domestic structure, administrative works: all are lying in the rock bottom. Many have addressed to the increasing uncertainty about exactly where Zimbabwe fit into this modern cricket world, somehow stuck between the rest of the Full Members and the Associates. Yes, there is promise among Under-19 cricketers, but young talent requires a healthy cricketing ecosystem to flourish.
Look back into the past. Many of Zimbabwe’s national team cricketers have actually walked down this road for more than a decade now. Truly, how much they have got left?
As a whole, for a team which loses more than it wins, the general difference between losing despite your best efforts and just giving up, that’s what matters. Unless they find a way to get out of this mess, what is left to be said about Zimbabwe – A dead cricketing culture?