The positioning of the Maiden pub at the Harare Sports Club is fantastic as one is able to eat, drink and should it be fitting, be merry while taking in the cricket that is on show out on the field. For many Harare residents, Monday the 8th of August is a day they will remember for some time to come as Zimbabwe’s cricket team completed an emphatic victory over Bangladesh on their return to test match cricket.
The celebrations showed how important a match this was for Zimbabwe and the significance of it had been written and spoken about quite a lot. Many, including myself, did not really know what to expect when Zimbabwe took to the field to play against Bangladesh.
It was a test match where both teams had something to prove. Bangladesh having lost is a great travesty to them as the world would have been watching to see if they have progressed at all as far as the standard of their play is concerned. One could see that it hurt the players to have been outplayed by a team that they expected to beat. Stuart Law, the new head coach of Bangladesh, has a very trying job ahead of him.
In the case of Zimbabwe, once the confetti has settled and been cleaned up and all the celebrations are over, the reality is that there will now be another test as they play against a stronger team. Pakistan arrive next month and they will be better than Bangladesh. It will be expected of Zimbabwe that they compete well in that test match and in the one against New Zealand in October.
Under normal circumstances, one would only enter the test match arena once but for Zimbabwe I have to say that there will only be one re-entrance. Now that’s done, the standards by which they will be judged are going to be high ones. Those from the “big” nations always talk about upholding the standards and integrity of test match cricket, Zimbabwe by building on this good beginning and competing well each time can ambitiously seek to shed the minnow tag. It is a tough ask, but something worthwhile working towards.
The most heartening thing for me as I watched the five days unfold at the Harare Sports Club was the talent of the two young fast bowlers, Brian Vitori and Kyle Jarvis. These two young men have been brought up in Zimbabwe’s current cricketing system and have managed to get to the level that they showed. Another in the bowling line up, Christopher Mpofu, has been on the international circuit for a little while but showed good improvement from the last time that I had seen him play.
The structures that have been put in place have done some good and been able to allow players to learn quite a bit. Now is the time to reinforce those structures and ensure that there is not a case of forgetting what it was that got these players better at what they do.
When there was no test match cricket in Zimbabwe, the franchise set-up was the pinnacle and perhaps what everybody working in the administration would want to be associated with. Now that there is the international scene, it is imperative that the domestic set-up is still closely monitored and regarded as very important. The national team will be fine under the tutelage and care of the coaching and management staff.
The difficulty for even a top cricket country at test match level always comes when the depth of their standards are strained. Just have a look at India and how they have struggled because the leader of their attack is injured and one of their senior bowlers has not had a good tour.
The likes of Shingirayi Masakadza, Edward Rainsford, Tawanda Mupariwa, Tendai Chatara and Tinashe Panyangara will have been watching the test match and probably secretly been envious as they were in the set-up a few years back when Zimbabwe struggled along.
They need to provide the competition for places in the fast bowling department and if ever called upon be able to perform at the standards set by those playing ahead of them. That will only be achieved if they are pushed at franchise level and put through the same paces as the national team. The batting needs to operate in the same fashion and has the likes of Chamu Chibhabha, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Charles Coventry and Regis Chakabva on the fringes.
While things may look rosy at the moment, it takes just one heavy defeat and things can again look bleak. There is a saying that goes, “one swallow does not make a summer”. It applies aptly in the case of Zimbabwe at this time. There must be a steadfast approach towards bettering the team despite the hiccups and heavy defeats that WILL come along the way.
It is important to enjoy the victories too though and the one against Bangladesh has been well celebrated. Congratulations Zimbabwe.