Because Zimbabwe are currently in strife and not particularly playing cricket, I decided to remind people of the talents that they have given the cricketing world. Admittedly, I only had 8 definites in the team off the top of my head, along with a number of maybes, so I had to do a little research and ended up putting a few current youngsters in who I think have shown the potential to be in the best XI whenever I have seen them play. (This is in batting order).
- 1. G. Flower – Started as a steady opener who was always prepared for playing a long, battling innings before later dropping way down the order. A test average of around 30 doesn’t particularly sound great but he always did his utmost for the team and gave them a match winning 201* when Zimbabwe won their first match in test history against Pakistan.
- B. Taylor – The first of my unsure selections, who is probably most famous for guiding Zimbabwe to victory against Australia early in the Twenty20 World Cup. Again, his record isn’t great but he always looks class whenever I see him play. I believe he is the one current player who can mature to score runs consistently as opposed to his raw, unpredictable team mates. This is backed up by the fact that Cricinfo shows since the start of 2006 he has failed to get to double figures only 7 times, he just needs to start building bigger innings.
- M Goodwin – unfortunately only played 19 tests but anyone who has seen him at Sussex can say he is definitely way above county standard and has been a little wasted having spent the majority of his career at that level. Scored runs against pretty much every country he faced and finished with an average of 40odd. A tremendous shame he didn’t play more as he could definitely have built upon the excellent start to his career.
- D Houghton (C) – Zimbabwe’s first captain and first century maker in their first match. Probably the country’s best batsmen after Andy Flower, his most productive series came against Sri Lanka where he hit 466 runs in 3 innings. I didn’t really know enough about cricket for the majority of the period he played in but everything I have ever read suggests he has been their best captain so far.
- A Flower – Quite simply the one world class player they have ever had. Held the official position of world’s no.1 batsmen and finished with an average over 50 from 63 tests as well as averaging a century every 5 matches. Brilliant against spin as well as being very good against pace. His career was famously cut short when he wore that black armband at the 2003 World Cup but Essex profited massively and he now coaches England’s batsmen; I bet he’d bat better than most of them even now.
- S. Williams – Looked very talented at the World Cup (even though he only had one big innings). Has averaged 40 in his last 12 games including a fantastic series against Pakistan where he showed he could consistently play innings with some pace to them whilst still being secure. Hopefully can carry on this form and add solidity to the current upper-middle order.
- T. Taibu (WK) – Is he the saviour of the country’s cricket. It seemed that way after his return to the team after 2 years. He’s scored a good number of runs including a heroic century v South Africa that unfortunately wasn’t enough for the run chase. He has fine keeping abilities which has the benefit of letting Taylor concentrate on his batting. He is also very experienced despite being young having come into the team (and captained it) at a very young age. He is crucial to this team for the coming years and I think that that in itself makes him a worthy candidate to be in this XI.
- H. Streak – The best bowler in Zimbabwe’s test history as well as being a very useful lower order batter. 455 international wickets at 29 is brilliant and also unrivalled by any other Zimbabwean. He constantly showed great drive, endurance and control which was lucky seems though quite often he was practically a one-man attack.
- P. Strang – Another good all rounder, with the steel to get runs when needed but also with good quality wrist spin capable of troubling the best. Rarely went without wickets (although this maybe due to the amount of overs he bowled because of a lack of other options) and four 5-fors in 24 tests isn’t a bad return with a best of 8 for 109.
- R. Price – Left arm slow bowler who often bowled a lot of overs. He got wickets against the best, 5-fors against India, Australia and South Africa, and had a good control of flight. Another useful player who stopped playing due to politics but recently returned to add some much needed experience to the young team.
- A. Ireland – To be honest, a lack of stand out seam bowlers so I’m putting him in ahead of others purely on potential really. A hard worker and has looked good whenever I’ve seen him (most recently at Gloucester). Hasn’t ever set the world alight but I thought he was consistently good. Again, it is a shame that young talent has retired early.
Obviously, this national XI would not compete with other national XIs but I hope that I have reminded people this country has produced some fine cricketers worthy of being on the world stage.
What is going on in this country right now is a travesty but I don’t see what good banning them from playing cricket does (not that I’m a politician knowing the ins and outs of the situation).
I feel that continuous competitive matches against first class opposition from the countries with solid domestic structures would do this current young team a world of good and get them to be more competitive for international matches in the not so distant future. They undoubtedly have talented batsmen at the moment with a few decent all rounders but need more experience (whilst not being out of their depth) to improve significantly.
Hopefully, players such as Justice Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura and Hamilton Masakadza can push Zimbabwe on to greater things and fight for places in the above team. Success is definitely possible for this country; we just need to work out how to get it.