MATCH fact: Today at Harare Sports Club, start time 9:30am local (0730GMT)
HARARE — What must a young, upcoming cricketer in Zimbabwe feel right now?
He would be told he has to follow in the footsteps of the Flowers and the Streaks.
What he sees are the Ervines and the Ballances, who choose to play cricket in another country. He would be told he has to derive inspiration from the exploits of the Zimbabwe side of the ’90s.
What he sees is a national team struggling to come up with even a single performance that would inspire him. He wants to believe his life can be all about cricket, only cricket. All around him, there are signs that show such a belief is just not sustainable in practice, at least in Zimbabwe.
He hears seniors talk about how difficult it is to provide for their families, he sees the national side threaten to stop playing till they are promised better wages.
Two days after the board promises, he sees one of his heroes, fast-bowler Kyle Jarvis, all of 24, quit international cricket so that he can play the game for counties and franchises and make some money while his body lasts. He spots a chilling sentence in Jarvis’ media statement that thoroughly shakes him up, beliefs and all.
“I informed my teammates yesterday that I would be leaving and they were supportive and fully understood why I was doing this.” Half-prepared to give up the game, he looks around for some hope, some sign that everything is not lost for Zimbabwe cricket, where those who choose to stay on support those who choose to leave.
And then Brendan Taylor and his men go down without a fight to Pakistan in the format in which they were supposed to have the best chance of causing an upset.
Zimbabwe lost both Twenty20 (T20) internationals by considerable margins, their batsmen falling to the Pakistan spinners, who took a combined four for 67 and five for 75 in the two matches. If they couldn’t compete with Pakistan for 40 overs, what chance do they stand over 100 overs?
If they couldn’t stop Jarvis from leaving, what chance do they have of preventing others who give up on the country in the future? If this continues to happen, what chance more and more young, upcoming players won’t quit either Zimbabwe or cricket much earlier than Jarvis did?
No money from the board, no fight from the players and no inspiration for the followers. Money won’t come around for a while, but that should not stop Taylor and his men from putting up a fight,. especially in these dark times, that is the bare minimum the followers of Zimbabwe cricket deserve. We can all do with some inspiration.
As if all the responsibility of being Zimbabwe’s leading batsman and captain wasn’t enough, Taylor also dearly needs to rouse his side at this juncture, with both words as a leader and deeds with the bat. That this hasn’t been a productive season for him won’t help, but form as a constraint fades before the enormity of the task in front of him.
Nasir Jamshed was dropped from the Test side for this tour after just two games against a tough opponent like South Africa. He’s spoken about how disappointed he felt, and how he plans to make a comeback with good limited-overs performances. He could not do much in the T20s — now comes the format in which he’s impressed the most.
Pakistan have won 12 of the 15 one-day internationals (ODIs) they have played in Zimbabwe against the hosts. Zimbabwe were able to win one and tie another, but both those matches were back in 1995 Shahid Afridi has played 354 ODIs for Pakistan and needs three games to overtake Wasim Akram. Only Inzamam-ul-Haq is in front after that, with 375 matches for his country.