BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
EXPECTATIONS were high that the Zimbabwe national cricket team would finally end their poor record in Bangladesh when they embarked on their multi-format series in the subcontinent nation last month.
The Lalchand Rajput-coached side had gone down fighting in the two-match Test series against Sri Lanka in January, agonisingly losing the first match in the final session of the fifth day while the weather seemed to have robbed them of victory in the second Test, which petered out to a draw.
It was widely hailed as the beginning of a new era for Zimbabwe cricket particularly after the emergence of debutants such as Kevin Kasuza and Victor Nyauchi while new Test captain Sean Williams put up a solid performance in his first assignment in the leadership role.
And a tour of Bangladesh, formerly Zimbabwe’s punching bags more than a decade ago and now currently going through a lean spell, was a perfect opportunity for the team to test its strength.
But things did not go according to plan as Zimbabwe succumbed to a series whitewash, punctuated by heavy defeats including an innings and 106-run loss in the one-off Test.
Zimbabwe also lost 3-0 in the one-day international (ODI) series as well as 2-0 in the two-match Twenty20 series and suddenly it appears like the country is back where it started.
As the postmortem of the disastrous Bangladesh tour continues, it has become clear that a combination of inconsistency, questionable selection and downright poor cricket were the undoing of Zimbabwe, who were outplayed in all facets of the game except one match during the tour.
Overdependence on former skipper Brendon Taylor cost Zimbabwe dearly during the tour, with the reliable player not managing to stamp his authority until the last T20 encounter.
The continued use of tried and tested players who are now past their prime and reluctance to give deserving younger players more opportunities should be a major talking point in the series postmortem.
Interestingly one of the stars of the Zimbabwe side during the tour was teenager Wesley Madhevere.
Fresh from the ICC Under-19 World Cup, 19-year-old Madhevere was Zimbabwe’s second highest run scorer in the three-match ODI series behind Sikandar Raza with 129 runs at a healthy average of 43.
There are also a number of Zimbabwe Under-19 players who showed a lot of ability at the World Cup and could have brought a different dimension in the team.
Zimbabwe desperately need to play regularly to become a competitive force again and the batsmen needed to build a lot more consolidating partnerships right from the top of the order instead of relying on the middle and lower order batsman to try and rescue the innings.
Another major disappointment from the just-ended tour was the Zimbabwe bowlers’ failure to trouble the Bangladesh batsmen throughout the series, which leaves bowling coach Douglas Hondo with a lot of work to do ahead of the team’s upcoming international commitments.
Veteran Chris Mpofu, by far the most experienced seam bowler in the Zimbabwe side, looked out of his depth while the trio of Donald Tiripano, Charlton Tshuma and Carl Mumba also took a hammering.
Bangladesh declared on 560 for six in the first innings of the lone Test before scoring over 300 in each of the three ODIs in a batting masterclass.
It was a pity that the Zimbabwe spin bowling attack was not able to take a cue from the menacing Bangladesh spin attack with specialist spinner Ainsley Ndlovu and Tinotenda Mutombodzi struggling in helpful conditions.
The team has now returned home and will break before hosting Ireland in three T20s and three ODIs next month although there are fears that the tour is set to be one of the last casualties of the coronavirus outbreak.