THE top order. That was what was on many people’s lips after Zimbabwe’s third match against New Zealand in the Videocon Cup One-Day International Triangular tournament, al
so involving India.
Yes, the top order should carry the blame for Zimbabwe’s failure to reach the required target at the Harare Sports Club on Wednesday, but then it is clear that there are many contributing factors to Zimbabwe’s poor showing in both the Croco Motors Test matches against New Zealand and in the tri-series.
After the top order collapse which set Zimbabwe on another defeat path on Wednesday, some suggestions have been that the middle order batsmen, who showed a level of urgency about their batting, replace the early batsmen at the top of the order in the last match with India on Sunday.
But then again, that same middle-order was also involved in the 65 all-out rout against India. That effectively limits the argument about the problem with our team.
An interesting observation by many people we spoke to was that the Zimbabwe players lack mental strength such that when they have a realistic chance of winning, like they had on both days this week; they get overwhelmed by the responsibility and get extremely nervous about holding the destiny of victory in their hands.
So what do you do? Hire a psychologist? Maybe. Well, the last time authorities resorted to such a move was three years ago, but little is known about his day-by-day role in the team and whether he made any difference to the players’ approach and performance.
While, generally, the team’s overall performance against New Zealand offered some hope, it is the gelling that new coach Kevin Curran must work on.
The top order must approach the game with a positive mind, and must get runs on the board to remove pressure on the middle order and tail, towards the end of an innings. Hanging around without doing anything solid and then giving the wicket away has been the order for Zimbabwe openers. Experience should have taught them that type of cricket does not win a game.
Good work by the Zimbabwe fielders and bowlers on the two days, seamers Heath Streak, Andy Blignaut and the two spinners, Prosper Utseya and Gavin Ewing, retained some measure of respect for the team. The seamers and spinners were able to put significant pressure on the two touring sides.
Utseya, nicknamed the “Economist”, was able to live up to his name as he was his usual economical self, while also taking good wickets, especially the uprooting of Rahul Dravid’s stumps on Monday.
Ewing’s three wickets against New Zealand were equally outstanding, and the Matabeleland all-rounder must be beginning to think that he should get a regular place in the side now as the supporting spinner. And he can bat a bit as well.
Streak had burdened Zimbabwe’s bowling for some time but after showing bits of his class at the Afro-Asia Cup, is now exhibiting the touch of his old self. He is a proven world class bowler.
Also on the path to reclaiming his reputation is fellow seamer, Andy Blignaut. His four wickets for 45 runs and then a half century on Wednesday are testimony of his strong fibre.
However, it all goes back to the first point: when everything has been said and done, the greatest task is to get the team to gel, and that is not a small job.