The cricket world has witnessed quite significant levelling of the playing fields in the past few months.
Bangladesh can no longer be dubbed minnows of the world, with Australia just about managing to hold to square the recently concluded Test series. The West Indies did finish second-best in their showdown in England, but performed that wondrous turn-around in the second Test match. Elsewhere Afghanistan and Ireland have forced their ways into the elite group of Test playing nations.
In this interesting scheme of things, the return of Brendan Taylor and Kyle Jarvis from the clutches of Kolpak to yet again don national colours for Zimbabwe is excellent news. When the Zimbabweans take on West Indies in October, they will do so with these two stalwarts back in the fray. Not only do they return to offer their services to the national team, they do so with plenty of enhanced experience gleaned from the educating expanses of county cricket.
Both Taylor and Jarvis, especially the former, are special cricketers in an inexperienced line up.
Taylor injects the batting of the side with a semblance of class. True, his overall numbers, when toted up against the best in business, look rather insipid, but he remains one of the best produced by Zimbabwe in more than a decade and a half. In this particular decade, he has scored 1071 runs in 13 Tests at 46.56 with 4 hundreds and 4 fifties. That is rather fascinating for a Zimbabwean batsman.
Jarvis, although yet to prove himself fully at international level, does have an excellent First-Class record and adds some much-needed firepower to the bowling unit. His 30 wickets in 8 Tests have come at 31.73 apiece, and his strike rate of 52.3 is impressive. Moreover, in First-Class cricket he has 284 wickets at 26.26.
The numbers of both these men indicate their being among the better performers in the game. And Zimbabwean cricket needs such players more than any other side in the world.
Most importantly, Taylor is 31 and Jarvis 28. Their return to the Zimbabwean team at this juncture does hint that there may be a significant amount of cricket at the international level left for both these blokes — something that had seemed rather far-fetched in recent times.
If the Zimbabweans do get their act together with the return of these two, and prove to be decent competitors, it will definitely be great news for cricket. The more dimensions added to the game at international level, the more interesting it becomes.
Granted, it will be difficult for the side to match the heydeys when Andy Flower batted for them, and the likes of Murray Goodwin played perfect foils; while Heath Streak spearheaded the attack with support from the Mpumelelo Mbangwas.
That was a team that could give the very best of them a run for their money. Sadly, everything went astray after that, with Flower and Henry Olonga putting their careers and personal safety at risk to protest the Mugabe regime. Since then, the country’s cricketing fortunes have gone spiralling in the decline.
Now, the return of top cricketers from the Kolpak wilderness does augur well for a team that has scraped the bottom of the cricketing pool for quite a long while, a side plagued with problems created through non-cricketing, severely socio-political reasons.
As Bulawayo gears up to host the West Indians in what can be effectively called the battle for the wooden spoon of world cricket, there will nevertheless be plenty of potential positives to look forward to.