Selection Bloopers Cost Zimbabwe

Conant MasochaContributor IAugust 13, 2009

Last Wednesday evening, former Zimbabwe bowling kingpin Heath Streak asserted to all who would listen that, contrary to wide belief, his former home ground Queens, host to five one-day matches against Bangladesh this month, was not the sole domain of spin bowlers, and therefore the home side would be best advised to field a conventional attack of three fast bowlers and two spinners.
The selectors will rue this missed wisdom, because a few days later, former compatriot and new convener of selectors Alistair Campbell emerged from the boardroom to announce three spinners in a five man bowling attack, also comprising of just two medium pacers.     

The result was immediately evident: in the first match after gamely posting a total of 207, the Bangladeshis, for so long fed on a diet of quality spin bowling in the subcontinent, eagerly dug into the total once they had seen off the potency of Elton Chigumbura. 

Despite adding one pace bowler at the expense of spinner Graeme Cremer, the second game was no different: trump card Ray Price was sent for a handful; “the economist” Prosper Utseya was pilloried for 50 and change; and between them, slow bowlers Sean Williams and Stuart Matsikenyeri contributed 32 runs in just four overs of Bangladesh’s mammoth total of 320. 

And curiously, it was a fast bowler Chigumbura who had the best returns of the day with 3 for 53.

No, this belief that Queens is a zone for spin bowling has no credence, for how do you explain this obvious disparity in figures? Perhaps our analysts were confusing test cricket with one day cricket.

Now that figures!       

More curious still is the omission of bowler Tawanda Marina yet again. How a bowler who has shown time and time again that he has more bowling brain in his fingers than most of his other compatriots combined doesn't make an appearance boggles the mind.

He will probably play on Friday as first change to Edward Rainsford, but this will only be damage limitation to what has been an abject selection so far.                     

Which brings us to the batting.

Williams has shown again and again why he is so invaluable, Mark Vermeluen has bounced back admirably, and even the eccentric Charles Coventry, so hard to take seriously as a person, let alone in a national game, has already done in one game more than Matsikenyeri has done in the last two years.

Number four batsman Chamu Chibhabha? What is his role exactly? Surely not that of bowling. And surely not as number three batsman now that Coventry has made the position his.

And surely not that of the middle order since he is so abject against slow bowling.

Are we talking here of opening the batting—if he can dislodge Hamilton Masakadza, by far Zimbabwe’s most consistent batsman in the last two years? Surely not.

The less said about Brandon Taylor the better: each missed boundary down leg magnified Tatenda Taibu’s greatness, each blocked delivery, a reminder of how the batsman can utterly play for himself, and the team in a bog.

Zimbabwe has packed their side with batters in this series to the extent that match winner Elton “Boom Boom” Chigumbura has been relegated to number nine; and of these Chibhabha, and Matsikenyeri’s are yet to be defined. If it wasn’t for wicket keeping duties Taylor, too, would be redundant.