Eagles captain pleads for quality game time

Durham won the Domestic T20 Cup without losing a single match.

FOLLOWING  Eagles' disappointing defeat in the Domestic T20 Cup final against visiting English County Cricket side, Durham, last month, the team captain, Chamu Chibhabha, suggested that increasing the amount of game time against top-quality opposition, particularly for the A sides, could help Zimbabwe narrow the gap between them and other international cricketing teams.

Durham bullied every opposition, winning the Cup on their debut tournament with a 213-run humbling of the country's finest franchise, The Eagles.

"Definitely, one of those games you want to quickly forget. I think they played some excellent cricket; they outclassed us in all departments, and I can't say much about what happened in that final. It was just a terrible evening for the Eagles," Chibhabha told The Sports Hub.

"They are very professional, as you can see by how they do their business. Also, they swiftly adjusted to the conditions, better than most teams. Look, you can tell by the way they played throughout the tournament. I mean, they never lost a game.

"They have a lot of experienced players too, guys who have played international cricket that are still involved in international cricket. After the game, we chatted with some of the players and the coaching staff, and the guys learnt a couple of things from them, which is good for us."

Chamu Chibhabha, left, his sister Julia Chibhabha and Durham captain Alex Lees square off in the group stages of the Domestic T20 Cup at Harare Sports Club.

The former national team captain, who has led his team to several domestic successes, suggests that the gap is much wider compared to teams like Durham.

"The gap is huge, but there's definitely a gap. I mean, these guys have travelled to Zimbabwe to come and play to get some practice. You understand this is a pre-season training preparing for their season," he added.

"I don't remember the last time we had like a pre-season getting into the season. Usually, we get together five days before we start our cricket season. So, I mean, little things like that tell you that a lot needs to be done. There's a lot that needs to be done."

Chibhabha added that the locals still needed to gain skill sets compared to their international counterparts.

"Also, if you look at some of the overseas players we had in the tournament, they did so well. They took a lot of wickets. The guys from Pakistan and then Alex (Russell) , who played for us in the Eagles, dominated in the Logan Cup, and the same was true with the seamers from Pakistan. They dominated a lot. Guys were struggling to play against them because they had better skills. They were very aggressive," he said.

"So, having more A-side tours guys playing competitive cricket to cover that gap is best. Before guys leave for the next level, at least they will have a bit of exposure from playing some competitive cricket, not just guys getting picked from scoring runs in our domestic cricket. Then, people act surprised when someone struggles to go to the next level, but the gap is too big.

"We need more A side games, more competitive cricket, more exposure playing against competitive sides so that guys build confidence when they perform against quality teams, then when the confidence is high, they can believe they can make it when they get picked for the national team."

Durham captain Alex Lees throws the coin at toss while Eagles skipper Chamu Chibhabha left and match referee Julia Chibhabha looks on.

Durham batted first and scored 229/6 in their 20 overs, while the Eagles were bundled out for 16 inside 8.1 overs.

"The wicket got low and slow as the tournament progressed, but we knew how the wicket would play. We were all prepared for that. We knew what to expect, but you can't say the wicket was why we played the way we did; they just played some good cricket," added Chibhabha.

"I'm super proud of the boys. After the game, when we were chatting in the changing room, I just said to the guys; look, it was a freak of a game. It's just a game we want to forget quickly. The way we played the night before, we had to force ourselves into the final. That's who we are; that's how we want to remember ourselves. We want to define ourselves with something other than how we played in the final. The way we played the day before the final, that's who we are, and that's what the Eagles are all about."

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