Zimbabwe do not go into the 2014 World Twenty20 as favourites – they have to first qualify for the main event.
Their biggest worry remains the lack of game time. Due to the various issues surrounding them, they’ve not had a lot of match practice. The warm-ups they played were very crucial for them ahead of the main matches (Zimbabwe lost the opener against Hong Kong before coming back strongly to beat Afghanistan).
Zimbabwe's qualifying matches
The win against Afghanistan showed how much character the boys had and it could have huge implications going forward.
Twenty20 is a strange game – if one guy has a good day, you’re through. What Zimbabwe lack is a strike bowler. Someone like Mitchell Johnson or Dale Steyn. Someone who can come in and make a real difference and you can call on them when you have a team on the ropes. You want that guy to finish the team off.
That’s what Zimbabwe’s lacking. Unfortunately, they recently lost Paul Jarvis as he had the making of being that very person. He was inexperienced but had the potential to fulfill that role.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s no lack of talent in Zimbabwe. But when you get decent players, Zimbabwe struggles to hold on to them. They get offers from abroad and we’ve lost quite a few in the past, especially during my time.
Need more matches
The other issue is the lack of cricket they’re currently playing. Currently, you see South Africa, India and England, they never stop playing. They’re constantly having to look for time to rest. It’s the complete opposite with us. Lack of international experience will never develop these players.
|Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor will have to motivte his playerse following the pay issues [GALLO/GETTY]
That only comes with playing top-level opposition. But there is a catch 22 to that: Unless you’re competitive, it’s not really viable for these countries to play Zimbabwe so it’s difficult for smaller nations.
With regards to the World Twenty20, there will be a lot of pressure on the batters once again. A lot will be left on the shoulders of Hamilton Masakadza, Brendan Taylor and Vudi Sibanda who is talented but has failed to be a consistent performer. Same with Elton Chigumbura. On a particular day, they have the ability to turn a match on its head.
A total in the region of 150 will be the something Zimbabwe batsmen can chase down. Spin-friendly conditions will help them too.
With regards to the bowling department, Prosper Utseya has the experience and he’s a wicket-taker. Wickets upfront really are key for Zimbabwe’s prospects. Wickets create pressure and that will also allow the spinners to do the job well later in the day. well.
However, without early breakthroughs, the opposition will be at ease against Zimbabwe spinners. So if Taylor sees turn, he might choose to bring spin in early, especially if there are lots of left-handers in the opposition’s batting line-up. If you play a couple of spinners, you need to bowl one in the Powerplay.
Unless you have a Muralitharan in the side, you don’t want to be using spinners in the last three overs. That’s quite dangerous.
Away from the field, the finance/payment issue will be at the back of the players’ minds. It went from being paid late to not being paid at all. They are professionals but aren’t paid huge amounts by international standards. A lot of them are young kids supporting extended families and their finances are stretched.
But lot of them have been paid now so they’re happy. But now they’d want to put a good show on the field and prove to the Zimbabwe cricket board that they must be looked after and paid well.
Zimbabwe players play with a lot of pride and will try their best. They have a tough qualifying group but the guys will be hungry to prove their critics wrong and not give Zimbabwe cricket admin any more ammo against them.
A semi-final appearance is probably beyond Zimbabwe but they should hopefully ease into the main event with some luck and focus on the job.
The author is a former Zimbabwe captain and coach, having taken over 450 international wickets.