GENERAL endorsement greeted the appointment of former Zimbabwe cricket captain Alistair Campbell as the new national chairman of selectors last week.
Campbell, one of Zimbabwe’s most successful captains, takes over from Kenyon Ziehl with effect from August 1.
While this is obviously a welcome move by Zimbabwe Cricket, the fullness of this appointment will not be realised without giving the new panel total autonomy in all selection matters. Selection in Zimbabwe cricket has frequently been a sensitive matter which has played a part in the documented demise of the national game.
The number one priority for the Campbell-led panel, therefore, is to bring back sanity into the selection process, perhaps also as a step towards reuniting the Zimbabwe cricket family by abandoning the selection of national teams based on any criterion other than merit.
Considering the large number of cricketers lost to this country in the last five years and the politics surrounding their exit, picking the best possible Zimbabwean XI on the day is obviously a task that’s beyond Campbell and his panel, try as they can to use their personal acquaintance to lure back some players.
Having said that, it has to be understood that not all former players will simply walk into the national side if they make themselves available.Â Zimbabwe cricket needs to move on and forget about these players, at least on the playing side.
On the other hand, there are still many players not available to Zimbabwe who can still make the grade and seriously challenge the players in the current team.
But Campbell’s task is much bigger than simply luring players back. The bigger task it to deal with players that are there, which was the major flaw of the outgoing panel.
As individuals, you can’t by any means question the credentials of Jackie du Preez, who can still be retained on the panel, and Ziehl. Even Vumi Moyo and Steyn Kombayi, the chief targets of critics of the panel, are not exactly cricket novices. But as a body these men presided over some very questionable selection decisions.
There was just no consistency in the selection of the national team and Zimbabwe “A”, which either suggested the selectors didn’t have a database of players or simply did not appreciate the importance of gradual progression. A lot of players were left in career crisis after being elevated to lofty heights at the international level – take for instance Friday Kasteni at the 2007 World Cup and Johnson Marumisa at the 2007 ICC World Twenty20 – and then being downgraded to not being good enough for second-string sides.
There is a high possibility that Campbell & Co will want to do things differently. They will ignore people with ulterior motives, or people who don’t have a clue of what they are talking about.
Zimbabwe cricket being what it is, this will create some tension. But what matters is that the decisions are fair and any interference should be dismissed with the contempt it deserves.