Divided Zimbabwe pulling in same direction.
Plenty of Zimbabwean teams have been thrashed in the last dozen years and there is a chance that this one will be, too, but one thing they won’t be – unlike many of their predecessors – is over-awed or intimidated.
None of them has had any experience of floodlit, pink ball cricket and, certainly statistically, they are heavily outclassed, so there are plenty of reasons not to be surprised if the Boxing Day Test doesn’t reach it’s scheduled fourth and final day. But there are also reasons to believe the ‘Babweans will put up far more of a fight than many expect.
One of those reasons is the presence of Brendan Taylor and Kyle Jarvis in the squad. Not just because they are extremely decent cricketers, but because the deep divisions they have created are causing the team to unite. Allow me to explain.
In order to qualify for the 2019 World Cup, Zimbabwe need to reach the final of the Qualifying tournament to held in their own country in February next year. Remember the tournament includes the West Indies as well as Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Ireland. If they do not reach the World Cup fears in Zimbabwe are that the game will simply shrivel and die beyond a meagre club circuit without ICC funding.
So Zimbabwe Cricket have gambled by offering hugely lucrative, three-year deals to Taylor and Jarvis to lure them away from their county contracts with Nottinghamshire and Lancashire. They are literally being paid three times what captain Graeme Cremer earns and up to five times what many in the national squad take home.
So, while Taylor and Jarvis feel the pressure to perform, the others have been told: “Prove you are as good as them then maybe we’ll review your salary.” The dressing room may divide and splinter in the future, but for now the tensions have led to everyone pulling hard in the same direction.
Head coach Heath Streak is a street-wise, experienced cricket man and he has plenty more of those qualities in his South African assistants, Lance Klusener and Makhaya Ntini. Solomon Mire has years of experience in the tough world of Melbourne Grade Cricket where he also earned a BBL contract with the Renegades.
Unlike the callow, youthful teams of the past, this one has half a dozen highly experienced players lead by the veteran Hamilton Masakadza and including all rounder Chanu Chibhabha, batsmen Sikander Raza and Craig Ervine, captain Cremer, ‘keeper Reggie Chakabva and fast bowler Chris Bobby Mpofu.
Hamilton Masakadza, Solomon Mire, Craig Ervine, Brendon Taylor, Chamu Chibhabha, Sikander Raza Butt, Regis Chikabva, Ryan Burl, Tendai Chatara, Graeme Cremer (captain),Blessing Muzarabani, Tendai Chisoro, Peter Moor, Kyle Jarvis, Christopher Mpofu.
The South African squad, meanwhile, looks straightforward with captain Faf du Plessis almost certain to miss the one-off Test as he continues his recovery from a back injury and shoulder surgery.
Theunis de Bruyn, Andile Phehlukwayo and du Plessis look like being the men to sit out from the squad of 14.
Standard Bank Proteas squad: Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis (captain), AB de Villiers, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock, Andile Phehlukwayo, Keshav Maharaj, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel.
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