ZIMBABWE cricket captain Prosper Utseya hopes that the recent series whitewash of Kenya restores some respectability in the team.
“Surely after winning 5-0 people can’t still see us as being in the same league as Kenya or Ireland,” Utseya told IndependentSport in a sweeping interview this week about the team’s recent performances, prospects for the future and Test return.
“We’ve improved in rankings after the win. If we continue winning we should go back to our traditional number nine on the ICC one-day rakings. There are definitely a lot of games ahead.
We can only get better. If we stick together we will improve and learn. It’s one thing to improve and another to learn. We need to learn from the games.”
Utseya praised the way his team set about the Kenya matches.
“I’m very proud of the guys,” Utseya said. “Playing against an associate member country, you are always expected to win, so there is pressure weighing you down. So for the guys to play, and play well like they did, showed a lot of character. We were not complacent after winning the first two games…it’s easy to get complacent. We didn’t wait for things to happen, we made things happen.
“Obviously it means a lot to this team to win a series, a convincing whitewash for that. I hope we can carry the form into the next series. I know Kenya is a weaker team, but to be honest, we played well and thought we deserve credit for that regardless of the opposition. It was unfortunate that no one scored a hundred, but we got a lot of fifties, and guys like Elton (Chigumbura) and Hamilton (Masakadza) batted really well. In fact, everyone contributed. When you play good cricket like we did, scoring 300s, it’s likely that everyone would have contributed.”
In the bowling he mentioned legspinner Graeme Cremer, who hauled a total 15 wickets.
“To get 15 wickets in your debut series is as good as any debutant can do. I think even Murali would have been proud in his youth. I hope he carries on.”
Before Kenya Zimbabwe played in Bangladesh, where they took on the hosts and Sri Lanka in a tri-series, and then a three-match series with Bangladesh. Before heading to Bangladesh, Utseya set two main objectives.
Firstly, he wanted to win the tri-series trophy, and secondly, win the series against Bangladesh. Neither was achieved, but Utseya was not too disappointed.
“We gave ourselves a chance by beating Bangladesh in the first match of the tri-series,” he said. “We played with true sprit against Sri Lanka in the second match although we lost. We didn’t make the final because Bangladesh beat Sri Lanka, but I thought we had done our part on our side.”
Zimbabwe lost the Bangladesh series 2-1 after taking a one-nil lead in the first match.
“We had a chance to win the series when we won the first match,” Utseya said. “But we needed to win one of the last two matches. The wickets didn’t play as well as they should have. The team that fielded first won games and we lost the toss in both. I don’t want to make excuses, but that did play a role. Even Sri Lanka were failing to score 200 on that sort of wickets.”
Utseya, meanwhile, said the decision by the International Cricket Council (ICC) to set his team’s test comeback at between six months and two years must be respected.
“A decision has been made and we’ve got to work with that,” he said. “In any setup there are people who make decisions and as a professional you have to accept that. I think for now what we need to do is to play as often as we can in the other forms. The more four-days games we play the better we will get. The ICC decision can be a blessing in disguise.”
He urged stakeholders to support the team through the good times and the bad.
He said: “It’s not always going to be rosy. Everyone who has a role to play should do play their role. The players know that their role is to play, and play well. We have to keep faith in the team. After all we do not only represent ourselves, but our country. We win together and lose together.”
BY ENOCK MUCHINJO