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Sunday, 3 January 2010

A-Z of Zimbabwe Cricket 2009: Part 8 [V-Z]

V - Vermeulen is Back

With a history of unbelievable run ins against the establishment, including the burning down of the National Cricket Academy of Zimbabwe in 2006, former test cricketer Mark Vermeulen was all set for 25 years of imprisonment with hard labour. But in a curious turn of events, he was acqutted on the basis of the fact that he was suffering from a medical condition known as Partial Complex Epilepsy, which had led to the sudden surge of erratic behavior.

Given a chance against all odds to mend himself, Vermeulen showed that he had not lost any of his cricketing class, by piling up huge scores one after another in the 2008-09 first class season in Zimbabwe, and staked claim for a national team call up. One of the most unlikely comebacks of sport history was complete when Vermeulen scored a magnificient 92 in his comback to international arena, representing Zimbabwe against Bangladesh on 9th august, 2009. He did participate in many useful opening partnerships after that too, and formed a formidable pair at the top of the order with Hamilton Masakadza before form deserted him. Representing Matabeleland Tuskers in the 2009/10 domestic season, he got many starts, but could not convert many of them to big scores, much to his frustration. Vermeulen's ugly past briefly reared its head again when he threw tantrums after getting out early in a match against Midwest Rhinos. He was not picked for two rounds of matches after that incident by the franchise that was fed up of his behavior. It remains to be seen if Vermeulen can carry himself on in top notch cricket, with acceptable form, fitness and temper to make a better "mark" in Zimbabwean cricket.

W - World Records Galore

Zimbabweans were creating world records left right and centre this year, which was very heartening to see. Charles Coventry broke the world record for the highest individual score in an ODI by notching up 194 not out against Bangladesh. He actually shares it with Pakistani opener Saeed Anwar, but sits on top of the pile by virtue of remaining not out. Leg spinner Graeme 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.

Vice Captain Hamilton Masakadza made the home series against Kenya his own, by plundering 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 at the highest level.

X - Xmas Break Xpectations

For a lot of budding as well as former Zimbabwean cricketers who have left the country in recent years to ply their trade in countries like South Africa and England, Christmas break means going back home from wherever they are, and meeting their families. 2009 though, had the expectations of cricket fans at an all time high. The new franchise cricket meant that already a big number of cricketers had come back to Zimbabwe over the course of the year, and the holiday break could have brought more people back home, who could assess the situation in the country, politically and cricketwise, and could choose to stay back and play, provided a contract was available from one of the franchises. This meant that the names of the likes of Tinashe Panyangara, Gerald Aliseni, Bradley Staddon, Andy Blignaut, Anthony Ireland, Sean Ervine and many others were doing rounds in pure expectation and nothing else. Grant Flower's return with the top coaching job for the national team also gained momentum. It would be interesting to see how the franchise squads shape up post christmas break as teams go head to head again at the beginning of 2010 in the closing leg of Logan and Faithwear competitions. Domestic T20 championship and a potential berth for T20 world cup of 2010 could also act as catalyst in helping some of the past stars make their decision to stick around in Zimbabwe.

Y - Yet Another Controversy

Controversies involving ZC continued to break out of the closet ever so regularly even this year, but their frequency went down and the effect were reduced as a lot of good things happening in Zimbabwean cricket took centerstage. In addition to the controversies involving former skipper Tatenda Taibu regarding the assault case and the kit controversy, there were other instances where headlines were made for all the wrong reasons.

Annual ZC Awards ceremony was held in Bulawayo in August, and news broke of the Streaks family not being invited, despite Denis Streak, Heath's father, winning an ICC medal. This led to a lot of speculation, but all seemed well after Heath Streak finally took over as the bowling coach of the national team.

No sooner the franchise cricket was introduced, it looked like trouble was brewing at the Matabeleland Tuskers franchise, where Joshua Paul was sacked to make way for Vumi Moyo at administration level. Although ZC hand in this was suspected, not much details surfaced, and the controversy died down.

Sports minister of the new unity government in Zimbabwe, David Coltart, invited a lot of criticism by posting on his official website, a mistimed article on ZC administrators written by Peter Roebuck, where he had called them goons and thugs.

Z - Zimbabwe Cricket is Back in Favour

Even before ZC came up with its revamped domestic structure and franchise model to reignite cricketing passion in the country and begin its road to serious recovery post ICC Committee report, other boards like the BCCI and CSA became more open towards ZC, offering help on their road to recovery. BCCI invited Zimbabwean teams to the domestic tournaments like Deodhar Trophy and Buchchibabu Tournaments, and offered National Cricket Academy facilities at Bangalore to the budding cricketers from Zimbabwe. CSA too mended its relationship with ZC and agreed for better support. ICC invited a Zimbabwe XI to take part in the Intercontinental Cup, the primary first class tournament played between the top six associates. This gave an opportunity for ZC to test their bench strength against the fast improving associate sides like Ireland, Afghanistan, Kenya and others.

Cricket in Zimbabwe has seen tremendous improvements in 2009 due to various steps taken in the right direction, and has undoubtedly raised hopes and expectations of players, boards and fans alike. Here's wishing a great 2010 for cricket in Zimbabwe. Inspiring performances in the U-19 World Cup and in the T20 World Cup scheduled for 2010 would do a world of good for Zimbabwe's efforts to come back into test arena.

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