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Zimbabwe cricket needs to lift themselves up for the betterment of world cricket……

It was meant to be a game that followed an expected route – a low score by the minnows, no fight back procured from their end and an easy win by the superior side. But World Cups hardly pan out as predicted – as India was harshly to learn eight years later in 2007 – and with a shock win over India in 1999, Zimbabwe had shown their rise and their eagerness to flip aside reputation on the field.

For years Zimbabwe has been standing aloof in their lonely realm in cricket. They were known for housing the most talented players once upon a time but as is the norm, the African side too was shaken up by the retirement of the Flower brothers, Heath Streak and Alistair Campbell. Together the lIt was meant to be a game that followed an expected route – a low score by the minnows, no fightback procured from their end and an easy win by the superior side. But World Cups hardly pan out as predicted – as India was harshly to learn eight years later in 2007 – and with a shock win over India in 1999, Zimbabwe had shown their rise and their eagerness to flip aside reputation on the field.

For years Zimbabwe has been standing aloof in their lonely realm in cricket. They were known for housing the most talented players once upon a time but as is the norm, the African side too was shaken up by the retirement of the Flower brothers, Heath Streak and Alistair Campbell. Together the legends had united to give Zimbabwe some of their finest years on the cricket field but once they were past their prime the lack of worthy players was evident.

However, it is not that Zimbabwe did not try. Though replicating the performance in the few years after they were granted Full Membership in 1992 was tough, the years from 1999 to 2006 was intermingled with some embarrassing defeats and tough comebacks. In the Test front, they drew games against Sri Lanka, West Indies, South Africa and Bangladesh and in the ODI format, Zimbabwe constantly pushed New Zealand and India. They registered possibly their best ODI victory ever when they notched up a one-wicket win at Auckland in 200, when the visiting unit scaled 275 in am emotional run-chase.

Andy Flower and Streak combined to pitch in with half-centuries but Zimbabwe still needed 19 from the final 3 overs. With only one wicket left, the onus was on Streak to finish off the game, which was achieved when he dragged Craig McMillan for a huge six to register the first ever ODI series triumph overseas. However, the glorious days were soon on the back-burners as wins became few and sparse in between. Zimbabwe saw in horror as Bangladesh rose above them in stature and as things stand currently, days where even Afghanistan and Ireland attain supremacy might not be distant.

As the team succumbed to one agonizing defeat after another in the ongoing home season, first in the T20I tri-series and then in the ODI games that followed against Pakistan, the absence of eight international players, including Brendan Taylor was hard to miss. Sikandar Raza, Sean Williams, Craig Ervine and former skipper Graeme Cremer – some of Zimbabwe’s mainstays in the last few years – missed out due to financial disputes with the Board and the poor talent pool was brought to the shore.

Though it would be too harsh to diss them aside after just a poor season, and to be fair Pakistan and Australia are teams that are not easy to compete against, the utter lack of direction became increasingly prominent as the hosts allowed Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam to make hay. The bowlers lacked any sort of natural swing or rhythm and the batsmen, sans Solomon Mire who was ruled out due to injury, failed to stand tall consistently.

The disappointment of missing the World Cup next year is sure to affect the morale of the team as well. Rain and a confident UAE combined to dash hopes of a few million in a must-win game in the 2019 World Cup Qualifiers. Needing 230 in 40 overs, Zimbabwe did well to get to 227 which was not enough on the day as the side was straightaway pushed to a road where no end was in sight.

“And in the long run,

All things happen for a reason

Though it’s hard sometimes believing what that means

There’s a long road, we will sail above these waters

There more than seven wonders too be seen…

Oh! We will find a way”

As Brenda Russell croons, the disappointment of the day should be taken with strength and the coaches and the management will do well to chalk out a plan for the future. The next World Cup Qualifiers in 2022 should be the aim, and Zimbabwe will do well to list down the players who will be present when the mega-event comes calling.

In Lalchand Rajput, Zimbabwe have an experienced coach and the players, though inexperienced have the passion to turn things around. The glory days might after all not be far!

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