Professional cricket teams are well-known for using video to analyse and get the better of their opponents. Most teams employ somebody specifically for this sort of thing. If you’re a Zimbabwean player, specifically Tinashe Panyangara, then you’d be better off not watching videos of opponents, though.
The Zimbabwean player, allegedly, shared a video of Mitchell Johnson with his teammates over the messaging service WhatsApp. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, this is the video that was shared with the group.
What followed after the sharing of the video was something quite extraordinary. Panyangara was apparently fined $1,000 for his misdemeanor and subsequently removed from the squad. The video was apparently shared on the eve of Zimbabwe's opening ODI clash with Australia in the current triangular series.
Zimbabwe Cricket sent out a statement about the player's axing, but it made no mention of the reasons for doing so. It did, however, say that the bowler was found to be "disruptive in the build-up to the first ODI of the triangular series".
Head coach Stephen Mangongo defended his actions in the days to follow and was quoted as telling ESPN Cricinfo:
In any sport, to post a video of the opposition annihilating another team will not be tolerated. I was perplexed that a senior bowler behaved in such a childish manner. On the eve of such a serious match, you don't do that.
Getting rid of the side's most experienced seamer seemed a very strange and foolish thing to do. For that reason, Mangongo is Cricket's Clown of The Month.
Things didn't get much better for Panyangara, either, as Johnson was rested for the next game.
Where to from here for Panyangara is not yet clear. Zimbabwe pulled off an impressive win over Australia without him just a few days ago, but one would think that something as seemingly minor as sharing a video won't be enough to end his career. Stranger things have happened in cricket, though, and those who send text messages have landed in all sorts of trouble before.
Kevin Pietersen got into trouble for sending a text message to the opposition and a simple Google Search for "Shane Warne text messages" will bring up endless results. A video of a player you are playing against is hardly a significant offence, though.
Dropping one of the most experienced players in a series where it could make a big difference is a little bit silly. If anything, the video might have even spurred on his teammates to prove that they can perform against the best in the world.
Exchanging videos with teammates should not be viewed as being disruptive, instead it should be viewed as something that speaks of how comfortable the players are with each other. Everyone knows that Johnson can be one of the scariest bowlers in the world and everyone can revel in his fast bowling, especially those who are playing against him.
Zimbabwe’s coach shot himself in the foot. Panyangara's performances in the two matches he did play were rather average with figures of one for 39 and naught for 68 respectively. Dropping him on form would have been completely justified, but trying to find a scapegoat, or lashing out over something so innocent, makes the team look somewhat amateurish.