Ban v Zim Zimbabwe

Published on November 6th, 2018 | by Prasenjit Dey

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Zimbabwe blessed to have Brandon Mavuta, can they keep him?

🕓 Reading time: 5 minutes

“Brandon Mavuta is a great asset for Zimbabwean cricket indeed. Spinners like him have hardly ever emerged from the country. He is just 21 and has so many years ahead of him to create his own legacy. But the real question is whether Zimbabwe can keep him”

This year has been quite hard for Zimbabwe. They missed out on a spot in the 2019 World Cup after losing to U.A.E by a narrow margin of 3 runs in the World Cup qualifiers earlier this year. They have lost three consecutive ODI series to Pakistan, South Africa and Bangladesh after that. When they went into the Test series against Bangladesh, on the back of such crushing defeats, the momentum was completely against them.

However, they believed that they were way better than what actually had transpired over the course of six months and hence bounced back with a memorable Test victory at the Sylhet Cricket stadium. This was their first Test victory in five years and their first victory away from home since 2001. The mammoth margin of the victory—a total of 151 runs—that too, in the den of the Tigers made it even more special for Zimbabwe. But the sad part is they will play only 20 more Tests during the next four years according to ICC’s Future Tours Program.

Surely, Zimbabwe deserves to play more. And so does Brandon Mavuta!

‘Yeah, wait….Brandon who?’

This is probably your reaction if you haven’t followed Zimbabwe in recent times. Well, you can surely google his name and look up his statistics, which would tell you that he is a 21-year old leg spinner with fairly decent numbers in the little number of matches he has played for Zimbabwe so far. But that doesn’t seem anything special or extraordinary, right?

Well, the saying ‘Numbers don’t lie’ has become a cliché now. But as much as we like to say and believe it, we all know deep down that numbers don’t always present the entire picture. If you want to know how good Mavuta is, you have to see him bowling. And that is not just applicable to him but each and every player.

This Test match against Bangladesh was his debut Test. Prior to this, he had featured in 5 ODIs and 3 T20Is for Zimbabwe. The way he performed in the recent ODI series against South Africa was quite impressive as well. He bowled very well but he didn’t have the right number of wickets to his name to show that.

Little did he know that was going to change soon in his maiden Test match. In the second innings of the match, he seemed a bit ineffective having leaked 27 runs in his 6 overs. He couldn’t find the right line and lengths but we all know that leg spinners take a little time to find their groove. And it was no different with Mavuta. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to bowl any more than his six overs during that innings as the other bowlers wrapped up things quickly.

However, once he got the chance to bowl in the second innings, he pitched everything right on the money from the word go. He tricked Nazmul Hossain Shanto with some extra bounce to pick up his first wicket. Mushfiqur Rahim was next who miscued a lofted shot and was caught in the deep by Wellington Masakadza. The delivery with which he got the wicket of Mehidy Hasan—well flighted, pitched on middle and off, turned outwards and then just kissed the outside edge of the willow to land straight into Chakabva’s gloves—was something every leg-spinner dreams of bowling every night. He didn’t stop there and pinned Nazmul Islam plumb in front of the stumps to claim his fourth wicket.

He looked good to claim his fifer on debut but his teammate Wellington Masakadza denied him the opportunity as he dismissed Ariful Haque to bring an end to the Bangladeshi innings. Mavuta bowled a total of 10 overs, which consisted of two maidens, gave away 21 runs and claimed four wickets.

His bowling average and strike rate after this Test match read 12.00 and 24.0 respectively. Even his economy rate of 3.00 appears to be gold considering that he is a leg spinner. This might appear to be an exaggeration of his bowling abilities after just one Test match. But his, first-class cricket statistics which read 48 wickets in 13 matches at an average of 23.33 and strike-rate of 37.2, will surely interest those who need numbers to believe.

Those who have watched him bowl can clearly see the potential in this 21-year old young gun. Most of the leg-spinners nowadays have straight and high arm actions and hence don’t extract as much turn from the pitch as classical leg-spinners are supposed to. The number of revolutions imparted by them is just not enough to make it turn on surfaces not conducive to spin bowlers.

However, Mavuta belongs to the classical breed of leg spinners with a round-arm action. He imparts a good number of revolutions on the ball with the rip that he generates it while delivering with his round-arm action. He flights the ball very skillfully and varies his pace nicely as well. He hardly turns his wrist backwards while delivering the googly, and that in turn, makes it further difficult for batsmen to pick him.

Mavuta is a great asset for Zimbabwean cricket indeed. Spinners like him have hardly ever emerged from the country. He is just 21 and has so many years ahead of him to create his own legacy. But the real question is whether Zimbabwe can keep him. The state of cricket in Zimbabwe hasn’t been good in recent years and considering the way the board has treated its players in recent times, the future looks unpredictable too.

They have lost so many players to Kolpak deals over the years. The 21-year-old promising pacer Blessing Muzarabani was the latest in the long line of Zimbabwean players to have taken that route. The players can’t be blamed at all considering the state of cricket affairs in the country. They have to make a living for themselves and Kolpak deals seem to solve most of their financial problems and professional aspirations. Their heart always wants to represent their country but it is not possible at all to lead a happy life in a state of crisis.

The Zimbabwe Cricket Board should understand what the players go through and need to ensure that they don’t lose any more players to deals in foreign countries. As far as Mavuta is concerned, he would already feature in the domestic circuit in South Africa. If he fares well, he might even catch the eye of County circuits and that Kolpak issue would loom large yet again.   

So the board needs to sort their issues out before they lose another gem. Without players like Mavuta, the condition of cricket isn’t going to improve in the country. Meanwhile, the International Cricket Council needs to formulate a method to give these countries like Zimbabwe enough game time also, because they cannot justify this little number of matches for them and the template of a 10-team World Cups at all, no matter how much they would want to.

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About the Author

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Prasenjit Dey is a freelance cricket journalist based out of Kolkata. Cricket runs through his veins and writing has always been his passion. He is now a part of both worlds, trying to make a difference by writing on the nitty-gritties of the game.



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