Zimbabwe Under-19 cricket team’s woeful performance at the recently-ended quadrangular series in India has raised concern over the future of the game in the country.
BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
Zimbabwe lost all their matches against the hosts, Australia and South Africa.
Having also put up a pathetic display at last year’s World Cup in Australia, Zimbabwe continued with their struggle at youth level.
Facing a South African side with a fast bowling attack and hosts India who were comfortable with spin-friendly conditions, Zimbabwe were always going to find it difficult to win against the much superior opponents.
Coach Walter Chawaguta however feels they gained immense experience, vital for next February’s World Cup.
“Obviously as a coach you are disappointed after losing because you expect better performances,” said Chawaguta.
“But I am not too disappointed because we were playing against the three best playing teams in the world. There was tough competition, and you could not ask for more. It was a learning curve.”
Subcontinent conditions in India also contributed to Zimbabwe’s demise.
“Conditions were very harsh and some of the players were not mentally mature to make adjustments. Lack of fitness let us down. Momentum-wise, we struggled and we failed to play for longer,” said Chawaguta.
“You bowl five overs but it would feel like you have bowled 25 overs because of the humidity. In 50 overs we would only look good in the first 20 overs. In terms of skills, we matched other teams man-for-man and never felt out of place in that regard. But the inability to absorb pressure and deal with small setbacks affected us.”
Despite the defeats, Chawaguta said he drew positives from the series and feels the India experience will come in handy at the World Cup.
“I saw some improvements. Lack of exposure at international level was our major drawback. We only get exposure at crucial stages and when you go to big tournaments, it would be too late and that becomes a letdown,” he said.
“Of the 15 players that we had, only five had international experience, and obviously as a coach you bank on experience. The squad we went with to India is going to be the core of the team we will take to the World Cup next year. Some boys could take advantage of that but we still have trials.
Next year’s World Cup would be staged in the United Arab Emirates where conditions are almost similar to those they were subjected to in India.
“We should have used specialist spinners in India. Instead, we employed all-rounder spinners which is a problem because there would be no commitment on a certain department,” said Chawaguta.
“We need more spinners at the World Cup. Spin is going to be a big trump card. Some of our batsmen surpassed the 50-run mark. Even other teams had their batsmen struggling to reach centuries.”
Against India, Zimbabwe managed 245 runs with Joylord Gumbie scoring 60 while Clive Chitumba came just 17 runs short of reaching a century.
Ryan Burl scored an unbeaten 79 against Australia before hitting 74 against the same side in Zimbabwe’s last match.
Senior team coach Andy Waller said he will have to study the results before judging their capabilities.