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Thursday, 31 December 2009

A-Z of Zimbabwe Cricket 2009: Part 6 [P-R]


P - Priceless Price Scales New Heights


Price is a famous surname in Zimbabwe, what with legendary golfer Nick Price scaling enviable heights in his preferred sport. But nobody would have expected his nephew, a certain Raymond William Price, who was lucky to survive meningitis caught as a baby that resulted in partial deafness and severe coordination problems that took years to return to normalcy, to reach anywhere near his uncle's reputation. But Ray Price himself had other ideas - by the time he walked out of the Zimbabwean Cricket team with other rebels in 2004, he had already established himself as one of the leading spinners in the world, a wicket taking marvel in tests and run containing bowling machine in ODIs.


Ever since his comeback in late 2007 to Zimbabwe fold, Price has played the role of "cheif mentor" for the young and developing Zimbabwe national squad to perfection, and in 2009, he not only continued his stingy run containing habits in ODIs, but took wickets in heaps against teams ranging from Kenya to South Africa. He won a match almost single handedly against Bangaldesh with sensational contributions with both bat and ball at the beginning of the year, and never looked back after that. He scaled new hieghts in ICC ODI bowling rankings by reaching as high as 3rd, and with more cricket against higher quality opposition, his achievements could have been even more glorious. There certainly is no doubting the thought that Price has already reached the legendary status in Zimbabwean Cricket, similar to the Flower brothers, Heath Streak and David Houghton.


Here's hoping for an equally brgiht, if not better, 2010 for this priceless contributor.



Q - Queens Sports Club Roars Back to Life

Ever since Zimbabwe withdrew itself from Tests, little international cricket had been played at the country's second stadium, the Queens Sports Club of Bulawayo. The reason floating around for not organizing matches in the picturesque stadium was that it was not financially feasible. Other stories pointed fingers at lack of facilities and lack of maintenance, which had made the ground unfit for top level compitition. But cricket returned in full flow to Bulawayo this year, with the 5 match ODI series against Bangladesh organized entirely at QSC. The ground also became witness to the world record score of 194* by Charles Coventry, against Bangladesh earlier this year. With franchise cricket making its way in, Matabeleland Tuskers were based out of Bulawayo, making QSC their home ground, as it was the case with the erstwhile Westerns, who won the domestic T20 title of 2008/09 season earlier this year, when the matches were organized at Bulawayo entirely.



R - Ripped Apart in Chittagong

The lowest point of the year for Zimbabwe was certainly the 4th ODI played at ZACS, Chittagong on 3rd November 2009, when the team won the toss, chose to bat first and folded up for a paltry 44. It is one of the lowest totals ever in ODI cricket, and certainly the lowest by any team against Bangladesh. There were arguments that the pitch was not fit enough for an international match, but a lot of blame must anyway go to the Zimbabwean batsmen, most of whom got out for soft dismissals, exposing their inability to handle left arm spin bowling. Captain of the day Hamilton Masakadza did accept that the team management misread the pitch, but the damage had been done. Only saving grace for Zimbabwe on that fateful day was that they managed to snare 4 of Bangladeshi wickets before they could hit their winning runs, thanks to the spin duo of Price and Cremer.


Wednesday, 30 December 2009

A-Z of Zimbabwe Cricket 2009: Part 5 [M-O]


M - Maruma Stakes Claim


There are just too many quality spinners in Zimbabwe at the moment, and the national team fields a three-pronged spin attack of skipper Utseya, Ray Price and Graeme Cremer very often in ODIs these days. Lack of quality seam bowling options could be one reason for this strategy, but inability to leave out one of these three, since none of them deserve to sit out, could well be another. But add to this mix another set of spinning options in Timycen Maruma, John Nyumbu and up and coming Dylon Higgins, and you have luxury. Maruma has sensed the need to step up a gear and be at his best every time he takes the field in domestic competitions, and as a result has done exceedingly well with both bat and ball, thus pushing the selectors to sit up and take notice.



Maruma has played for Zimbabwe before, but due to the spin luxury of the national team, has found it difficult to make the cut for now. He has scored big and quick runs with the bat in the 2009/10 domestic season, and is the leading wicket taker in the Logan cup this year with 48 scalps at an average of less than 16. He has done everything he can to knock on the doors of the national squad, and would be a serious contender to fill an all-rounder spot when the next team selection is made.


N - No Sight, but Great Vision - du Plessis Continues to Impress and Inspire

Those who have followed Zimbabwean cricket in the last decade, especially their home matches, would in all probability, know about a certain Dean du Plessis, and would certainly have loads of respect for the man, and a lot of sympathy and astonishment too. Dean du Plessis is blind from birth, due to tumors developed on the retina of his eyes, and doctors said he would not survive for long. He is in his 30s now, and still going strong, commenting about the game on radio and television. He developed interest in cricket at a very young age thanks to his brother who used to play, and started following radio commentary, and due to enhanced hearing abilities, started understanding the game just by listening to what was going on.


The most astonishing moments of listening to Dean du Plessis in the commentary box for me was when he announced that Dilhara Fernando had probably the most deceptive slower ball among the bowlers going around the world, and again when he said that the pull shot was the favorite shot of Craig Wishart when he pulled one over midwicket for six. He not only understands the game and analyses it, but also remembers many statistics and facts he has realized in the past, and uses this knowledge to dissect the game as it progresses, never lagging behind the pace of the game for a moment, despite his humongous limitations.


du Plessis became more visible to cricket followers around the world in 2009 when the Times featured an article on him. He was also sent to Bangaldesh tour as part of the official touring party of ZC, and did his first commentary stint outside of Africa, thus gaining recognition and respect of people in the subcontinent. Here's wishing the inspirational du Plessis all the very best and hope we can hear his insightful commentary for years to come.


O - Ozias Bvute becomes the Face of ZC

Zimbabwe Cricket, the governing body for cricket in Zimbabwe, has been in limelight for all the wrong reasons over the past few years, especially after the Heath Streak led rebel walkout. Many point fingers at some of the adminsitrators who probably grew too ambitious and looked to bring in too many changes too early, and in many cases, with personal ambitions taking precedence over cricketing successes of the country. Peter Chingoka, the prsident of ZC for almost two decades, has been the most visible face of ZC administration, but in 2009, he took backseat and allowed the CEO Ozias Bvute get a lot of media visibility. Most stories around the rebel walkout period show Bvute as the prime reason behind dissidance, but it seems he is taking a lot of steps towards correcting his mistakes, or at least appears to have been doing so, probably sensing pressure from the unity government at home, and the ICC. Realizing positive action as the need of the hour, the much criticized Chingoka might have taken a wise step to distance himself from the visible administrative activities in an attempt to develop a new outlook for ZC.


Ozias Bvute also might have played a huge part in reconciling differences with former greats like Heath Streak, David Houghton and Co., who have come back into the system in coaching capacity. It would be difficult to analyze the effect this change would bring, as Bvute too has been around for ages now, but one can hope and pray that this new outlook would bring better days for cricket in Zimbabwe.

Monday, 28 December 2009

A-Z of Zimbabwe Cricket 2009: Part 4 [J-L]


J - Jarvis Junior Jumps in from Nowhere!


Kyle Jarvis, son of former Zimbabwe player Malcolm Jarvis, was picked out of nowhere to represent Zimbabwe in their home series against Kenya. In what is believed to be a masterstroke by the newly appointed bowling coach, the legendary all-rounder Heath Streak, Jarvis was first made to play the 4-day intercontinental cup match for Zimbabwe XI agianst the Kenyans, and was straightaway pushed into the playing eleven for the first ODI. He neither had First Class experience before playing in the Intercontinental Cup match, nor the List A experience before playing in the ODI against Kenya, but did admirably well in his first outing, getting 3/36 in his 7 overs.


Jarvis has since played a total of 9 ODIs including those against the mighty South Africans, and has taken 10 wickets so far. He is seen as the future of the Zimbabwe pace battery, and probably that drove the board to fast track him on to the national scene, to avoid losing him to South Africa, where he was based. Watching him bowl in the South African series, even the likes of Kepler Wessels and Allan Donald expressed hope for the future. One can only eagerly look forward to watching Kyle Jarvis develop under the guidance of Streak and Co.


K - Kenya Marauded - Not Once, But Twice

Zimbabwe got to play their next-door-neighbours Kenya twice this year, a 5 match ODI series on both occasions, and made full use of these to underline their supremacy over the associates. While they marauded Kenya in their own den 5-0 at the beginning of the year, the return leg at home was equally brutal, if we ignore the one slip-up that led to a 4-1 score line.

In Kenya, Chigumbura struck them as lightening, hitting sixes at will, with able support from rookie wicket keeper batsman Forster Mutizwa, who was equally destructive on most occasions. In the Zimbabwe leg, where a 3 match series got extended to a 5 match one, Hamilton Masakadza came up with those world record breaking batting performances. Throughout, spinners excelled too, exploiting and exposing the inability of the Kenyan batsmen in facing quality spinners. Although these performances underlined Zimbabwe's supremacy over Kenya and the progress that is being made, it also exposed how low Kenya have fallen since their impressive run in the 2003 Cricket World Cup.


L- Lock Locked Out


Former Zimbabwe leg spinner Alan Charles Ingram "Charlie" Lock had once terrorized New Zealand batsmen by producing a deadly spell of 5/5 in a span of 11 deliveries to win an ODI for his national team, but he has had turbulent time in the last couple of years, due to the political situation in the country. Lock, who turned professional agronomist after retiring from the sport, had his farm taken away from him from President Mugabe's men, thus locking him out of his own farm and produce, despite conforming to the redistribution regulations. It is a painful story, but Lock wants to fight it out till his last breath.


Here is a CNN report from earlier this year on the situation of Lock and others:



Only hope here is to wish him the very best in his struggle for survival.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

A-Z of Zimbabwe Cricket 2009: Part 3 [G-I]


G - Graeme Cremer creams Kenya


This was the breakthrough year for the affable leg spinner Alexander Graeme Cremer. He made his much awaited ODI debut in January 2009, four years after making his Test debut against Bangladesh, and created history straightaway. Cremer, who had taken a wicket with his first ball on his T20 International debut against Canada in 2008, took a wicket on the sixth ball of his first over on his ODI debut against Kenya, thus becoming the only bowler in the history of the game to pick up a wicket in his first over in two out of three international forms of the game.


Cremer's year continued to be a bright one, and the icing on the cake came in the second home ODI against the Kenyans at Harare, where he weaved magic to pick 6/46 in his quota of 10 overs, eclipsing the performances of the legendary Ray Price and a more established Prosper Utseya on that day. His all round abilities were on display earlier in the match, as he had scored a breezy 31 of 19 balls to propel Zimbabwe to a respectable total of 263. Cremer finished the year with 32 wickets, and a lot of promise for future.


H - Hamilton's Merry

A man who could score his first test hundred as a 17 year old against the mighty West Indies must certainly have some talent. Hamilton Masakadza, who achieved that feat in the 2000-01 test series, has this year caught the eye of the cricketing world by being in the august company of players who have notched up over 1000 runs in the calendar year in ODIs. Masakadza was in supreme form for most of the year, taking over the role of the most dependable batsman in the line up, and lived up to it, by virtue of producing some huge scores. Finishing the year with 1087 runs at 43.48, with 3 centuries - remember, he did not even have an ODI century against his name at the beginning of the year - must be a satisfying feeling, although he would have loved to end the year on a high in the two match series against South Africa, where he could not score much.


Hamilton Masakadza was in particular severe on the Kenyans, whom he got to face 10 times over the course of the year in the ODI format, and in the home series of 5 ODIs, he plundered 467 runs , a world record aggregate for a bilateral series of any length. He also made two scores of over 150 in the series, 156 and 178 not out, which again is the first time it has ever happened. If the Zimbabwe Vice Captain can carry this form further, he can be one of the batting pillars on whom Zimbabwe Cricket rebuilds itself, along with the likes of Tatenda Taibu, Sean Williams and Brendan Taylor.


I - Injury woes of Utseya and Co.

Injuries ranged from freakish to frustrating to life threatening ones for the Zimbabwean cricketers this year. While skipper Utseya twisted his ankle in an attempt to celebrate the catch he took against Bangladesh and had to remain sidelined for crucial fixtures in the subcontinent, Upcoming all-rounder from Bulawayo, Mbekezeli Mabuza, along with Simba Kusano, survived severe injuries from a huge car crash near Bulawayo. Heartening to note was the fact that Mabuza was back playing first class cricket for his franchise Matabeleland Tuskers towards the end of the year.


Other injuries included the ones to the highly unlucky Sean Williams (during practice and during play), Mark Vermeulen and Edward Rainsford, which kept them out of action at crucial stages of this cricketing calendar. Tatenda Taibu, Ray Price and Elton Chigumbura too had their niggles, which, at times prevented their all round participation in the games they played. With tougher challenges ahead and better facilities expected due to the revival of Cricket, one can hope and expect better fitness management in coming years.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

A-Z of Zimbabwe Cricket 2009: Part 2 [D-F]


D - Dylon's Dream Domestic Debut


Dylon Higgins, younger brother of former Zimbabwe leg spinner Ryan, is an up and coming leggie and a middle order batsman himself, hailing from the prestigious St. Georges. He will be leading the Zimbabwean Under 19 team in the U-19 world cup early next year in New Zealand, and he probably sealed the captaincy when he made his first class debut for his franchise Midwest Rhinos at the end of October. He had been one of the most consistent performers with the ball with admirable control for a leggie in his U-19 outings this year, which would have convinced the Rhinos to sign him up for their squad. What he achieved on his first class debut, though, was something even the Rhinos management would not have dreamt of.


With most of the Rhinos squad away with national duty or sidelined due to injury, their bowling looked horribly weak without Cremer and Rainsford. Higgins took the field as the lead spinner for the match, and by the end of it, his overall bowling figures read 56.3 - 16 - 151 - 11. He took 6/93 in the first innings and followed it up with a 5/58 to reward Rhinos with a nail-biting 19 run victory in what was probably the most exciting match played in Zimbabwe this year. Considering a performance as strong as this one, it is safe to say that the U-19 team is in able hands. It would be interesting to see how Higgins develops in the coming years, especially in the domestic setup brimming with quality spinners.

Dylon Higgins Image: Courtesy - Zimbabwe School Cricket Community on Facebook


E - England's Ashes Win has Zimbabwean Flavour, Again

The England test team won the Ashes with a scoreline of 2-1 at home again in 2009, similar to the scoreline of their 2005 home victory, thus denying Australian captain Ricky Ponting the opportunity to taste success at the home of Cricket. It is not just the scoreline that looked similar, among other things, one of the major similarities between the 2005 success and that of the 2009 series was that a Zimbabwean was at the helm of affairs, as the coach of the England team. In 2005, it was the former Zimbabwe skipper Duncan Fletcher who inspired the Michael Vaughan led side to victory, and this year, it was the legendary wicket keeper batsman Andrew Flower who played a huge role in helping England achieve the feat.


Flower took over the reins when the much publicized spat between skipper Kevin Pietersen and head coach Peter Moores led to the sacking of both. Having got promoted from assistant coach to head coach position, Flower quickly brought the team together under the leadership of the new skipper Andrew Strauss, and against all odds, managed to forge the team and strategy to outperform the Aussies and win back the Ashes. His influence on the England team is there to be seen, and Strauss did not forget to give due credit to their coach for the unexpected, yet clinical success.


F - Franchise Cricket Brightens Future

Zimbabwe Cricket made sweeping changes to the domestic cricket structure as a step towards implementing the recommendations of the ICC committee, and in the process, moved towards franchise based cricket for the first time in their history. A successful attempt in neighbouring South Africa was reason enough to invest in the new structure, as five franchises, based out of Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Kwekwe and Masvingo came into existance. As the year progressed, more details came through, and the franchises got their sponsors and were named as Mashonaland Eagles, Matabeleland Tuskers, Mountaineers, Midwest Rhinos and Southern Rocks.

Schedules for the Logan Cup, the first class competition, Metbank Faithwear domestic one day league, and the domestic 20-20 competitions were all drawn up with the new franchise teams as participants, and these reforms meant that a lot of the former players returned in coaching and playing roles, thus taking the standards of the domestic setup to a new high. Even some overseas players, including Kenyan stars Steve Tikolo and Thomas Odoyo chose to play in Zimbabwe, adding credibility to the leagues. As the year progressed, the investments made started producing results, with some tight finishes and impressive performances, thus strengthening the bench of the Zimbabwe national squad. If the reforms continue in years to come, brighter possibilities await for cricket in Zimbabwe.















Franchise Logo Images: Courtesy - ZimCricketNews.com

Thursday, 24 December 2009

A-Z of Zimbabwe Cricket 2009: Part 1 [A-C]

This series aims to provide a review of the year that was for Zimbabwe Cricket in 2009. Here is the first part...


A - Alistair and Co. Back in Business

Alistair Campbell, David Houghton, Heath Streak, David Mutendera, Dirk Viljoen, John Rennie: All yesteryear stars, came back to the ZC fold by taking up high profile roles, with one intention - to bring back Zimbabwean Cricket to its glory days. In line with the recommendations made by the ICC and quite possibly to position themselves better in view of the new unity government in Zimbabwe, the ZC officials took many steps in right direction this year, and the legends of the past responded by burying the past and came together to rebuild the game in the country.


While Campbell joined in as the chairman of selectors, Viljoen, Mutendera and Rennie joined him in the panel. Houghton agreed to be the technical advisor and director of national coaching, with Andrew Waller assisting him. Heath Streak too returned as the national bowling coach and romours are rife that he would soon take over as full time head coach of the team. With all this happening in a span of few months, suddenly things have started looking up for the Cricket in Zimbabwe.


B - Business as Usual for "Boom Boom" Chigumbura


It was business as usual for Elton "Boom Boom" Chigumbura, as he continued to increase his sixes tally, terrorizing bowlers all around. Despite injury scares towards the end of the year, he continued his all round contributions to the Zimbabwe team, picking wickets regularly while playing the role of the lead pacer, and hitting ferociously to score quick runs when the team needed them desperately. As if two Man of the Match performances against arch rivals Bangladesh were not enough, in the away series against Kenya, he turned out to be their nightmarish exterminator, hitting their bowlers at will to play a big part in a 5-0 whitewash. If his form is anything to go by, many T20 franchises across the world including the ones in the IPL must be willing to shell out decent contracts to get his services. Chigumbura would have to play a very important role if Zimbabwe have to progress well in the T20 World Cup of 2010.


C - Charles Coventry's Coveted Innings


Charles Coventry's effort of equalling the world record for the highest individual score in an ODI, held by Saeed Anwar of Pakistan (and toppling it by virtue of having remained not out - 194* against Bangladesh at Bulawayo), must go down as the most visible individual achievement of the year for Zimbabwe on the cricketing field in 2009. Taking the Bangladeshi bowlers to the cleaners with utmost brutality, Coventry went from 100 that he reached in the 37th over of the innings to 194* towards the end of it. The innings becomes all the more special when you notice that Coventry was building the Zimbabwean innings for majority of the time, as wickets kept falling at the other end. He deservedly recieved a gaurd of honour from his teammates at the end of the innings, but he would have certainly enjoyed the moment much better if the team had managed to win the match on that day.

Coventry built up to that mammoth knock with some nice scores of 40s and 50s, but post this innings, he suffered a huge slump in form, and failed to impress even domestically for the rest of the year. If he can recreate the magic in the coming years, we can be assured of watching a few more explosive top order knocks from the bespectacled dimunitive wonder.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

An Interesting Story about a Sanskrit Poet

This is a story I have heard from my uncle about a Sanskrit poet (one version refers to the poet in the story as Bhasa and another as Bana Bhatta, so let us not get into who the poet actually was). I was discussing this story with a few of my colleagues recently and thought it is worthy to be blogged about.

So, this poet was writing a novel / mahakavya, which was going to take a long time, and he was getting old with failing health. He was half way through his work and felt that he might not be able to finish it in his lifetime. He wanted someone to finish the epic after his death, but he wanted that person to be worthy enough to do so. He knew both his sons were equally good at writing, so he thought of choosing one of them for the task. So, he called them both, and gave them a small test. He asked them to come up with a poetic sentence that could explain the following statement: "There is a dead tree in front of me".

The first son came forward and said, "शुष्कोवृक्षस्तिष्ठत्यग्रे", which, when expanded, becomes "शुष्कः वृक्षः तिष्ठति अग्रे". The second son, took some time, and came up with this: "नीरसतरुरिह पुरतो भाति", which is nothing but "नीरसः तरुः इह पुरतो भाति". The poet was pleased with the sentence the second son came up with, as he could put even the information regarding a dry tree in a more pleasant way. So, he chose his second son to complete his work.