Is This the Renaissance for Zimbabwe?
Can this good form and fortune continue like this? Can Zimbabwean hearts dare take the pitching, heaving, surging hope that has been sown into their souls by the thunderously victorious cricket team in Kenya?
Can Team Zimbabwe—formed by just a team of young guns—keep winning, scoring and winning as they have seemed to do lately? Is this truly a renaissance for Zimbabwe cricket?
One day cricket lore would tell the story, that once upon a time, two folks called Andy Flower and Henry Olonga offset a cataclysmic series of events that eventually led, almost a year later, to 14 players quitting the game simultaneously and the team being stripped of their Test status.
But a team of youngsters, guided by opportunism, an unfaltering, somewhat staggering strength, Team Zimbabwe rebuilt and, after four years of tumult, scorn and rejection, once again rose to become a top team…
Two weeks ago, before the one day series in Kenya took off, your correspondent forecast that the Zimbabwe Chevrons, finely tuned from a reinvigorating tour of the subcontinent in which they managed to win two of five matches, would prove too strong for the Masai of Kenya.
But even by this bullish tone, the five-match thrashing of the Kenyans has been truly staggering. To put the utter domination of the Zimbabweans into perspective, consider that only a few months ago even the fairly intermediate Irish were bombastic when faced with the prospect of playing Zimbabwe, and the Kenyans hugely expectant after winning a decisive battle two months ago.
Consider that chief bowlers Tawanda Mpariwa and Edward Rainsford were rested for at least two matches and consider that Tatenda Taibu didn’t even lift a bat in anger in the series. Consider that the batting lineup was tweaked, therefore, and new responsibility handed to newcomers Foster Mtizwa and Malcolm Waller. And yet everybody stepped onto the plate.
In the five matches played by Zimbabwe their batsmen have averaged an innings total of 280 runs, chief whip Elton Chigumbura weighing in with 224 runs at a staggering strike rate of 154.
This is unprecedented. We have always known Chigumbura to have ballistic arms. We know he can hit out of Lahore, and the Pakistanis know it too. The signs were evident early on, when in only his fifth one day international as an 18-year-old he defied everything that Australia’s Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz, Andrew Symonds and Brett Hogg threw at him to make 77, fifty-two of those runs in boundaries.
But in recent times—in fact, since Kevin Curran—he had looked more circumspect, which made his sudden explosion against Kenya all the more startling. But more comfortingly for the Chevrons, five of their top six batsmen, used interchangeably in the five games played, got runs. Three of them, Hamilton Masakadza, Sean Williams and Chigumbura, averaged no less than 50, and even the tail-enders weighed in.
The Sri Lankans, no doubt, present a far more sobering prospect in three weeks time, when the Chevrons return to the subcontinent for four one day matches.
But for now may the good times roll. If not the results, then the runs.
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