The History of Zimbabwe Cricket (Yesterday, Today and Tommorrow..)
The Big Picture
Zimbabwe are flying high with a recent 130-run victory over Bangladesh, thereby staging a grand comeback to Test match cricket. However, this has not come as easy as it may sound. It is a long history that many a people often overlook or is quite often slightly over-showed by the off-and-on surprise wins that the men in red, green and yellow manage to clinch. In this edition, let us shed light on the not-so-recent history, the more recent history and what lies ahead of Zimbabwe cricket.
The Entrance of Zimbabwe into the World of Cricket
Speaking of Zimbabwe cricket before their entry into Test cricket, Zimbabwe began playing cricket extensively almost immediately after gaining independence in 1980. Soon after, Zimbabwe were fortunate to have been elected an associate member of the ICC. Having said that, Zimbabwe received yet another good news in a span of approximately two and a half years that they were shortlisted as a participant in the 1983 Cricket World Cup. After having played two Cricket World Cups (1983 and 1987), Zimbabwe gained test status in the year 1990, becoming the ninth test nation. Undoubtedly, Zimbabwe impressed with some sparkling performances in the One-Day arena, particularly with their blistering fielding abilities, but the men in red, green and yellow (was it?) failed to make a mark in test match cricket.
All the Good Times
Following a series of losses in tests and the resignation of several senior players, the word in the media was that Zimbabwe had been granted Test status, prematurely, as believed by a number of experts and people from all and sundry. Despite all these odds, outstanding players like Andy Flower (who in fact went on to be rated the best batsman in the cricketing world), Grant Flower, all-rounders Andy Blignaut and Heath Streak, Alistair Campbell, Paul Strang, Eddo Brandes and Neil Johnson made innumerable significant contributions to Zimbabwe cricket. It was purely due to unparalleled efforts by these diligent players that contributed towards achieving a significant breakthrough after which Zimbabwe tasted a flurry of success, thereby making inroads into the test level, the most noticeable being a series win against a strong side like Pakistan. Murray Goodwin, coupled with Andy Flower, scored mountains of runs for Zimbabwe and arguably were the most prolific batting powerhouse for team Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe excelled at the 1999 ICC Cricket World Cup coming in fifth place in the Super Sixes, only missing out on a semi-final place due to having an inferior net run-rate than New Zealand.
The Real Start to the Blues of Zimbabwe
Ascending politicization of cricket, including selectorial policy, coupled with the declining situation in Zimbabwe contributed largely to the downfall of Zimbabwean cricket and hence a disastrous performance in the 2003 Cricket World Cup. A large wave of retirements, sanctions and suspensions followed almost immediately after the World Cup. Heath Streak was the first to voice his opinion against the rising political influence in the side as he walked out with a total of fourteen players and was eventually sacked by the board. The cricket crisis in Zimbabwe never really settled even after this move and the Zimbabwean cricket system continued to nose-dive. On January 2006, Zimbabwe cricket decided to self-impose international suspension, thereby suspending the playing of test matches for the rest of the year. Amidst all these horrendous incidents for Zimbabwe cricket team, the unfortunate news that ex-player Mark Vermuelen was arrested after attempting to burn down ZC’s offices, and successfully destroying the Zimbabwe Cricket Academy’s premises only added fuel to fire. It is evident that facilities like these contribute largely towards producing as well as polishing budding young cricketers which is why its destruction worsened the case of the already declining system. All these horrors convinced the ICC to disallow Zimbabwe its test status which meant that the ICC only felt fit to leave Zimbabwe cricket in isolation.
A few Jigs of Celebration for Zimbabwe in a period of drought
The only lightning in the rain in a long time was Zimbabwe’s upset, yet convincing, victory over team Australia in the first ever ICC World Twenty-twenty championship in 2007. Brendon Taylor, the in-form wicket-keeping batsman for Zimbabwe, lead the side to n emphatic win against the potential champions. Zimbabwe only just recently registered a comeback to test cricket in grand style on August 8th, 2011 following a six-year exile. Zimbabwe emerged victorious in the one-off test against Bangladesh at Harare as the Zimbabweans tasted success after a really long time.
Zimbabwe look to regroup and Embark on yet another Journey
For Zimbabwe cricket, now it is a do or die situation once yet again. An emphatic win registered against Zimbabwe is certainly a positive sign but Zimbabweans surely need to rethink their policies and set their priorities so as to set a well-established unit. In the main, they need to keep the right mix of individual performances, team-building, fielding, coupled with squad cohesion as well as winning matches. Certainly, it will take a good amount of time for cricket Zimbabwe to settle in their grooves and to recover from their current state to a level of respectable competitiveness as of the middle 1990s and early 2000s.