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Monday, 4 January 2010

A-Z of Zimbabwe Cricket 2009: All Parts

Here are the links to all 8 parts of the alphabetical review of Zimbabwean Cricket in the year 2009:

A - Alistair and Co. Back in Business
B - Business as Usual for "Boom Boom" Chigumbura
C - Charles Coventry's Coveted Innings
Part 1 (A, B, C)

D - Dylon's Dream Domestic Debut
E - England's Ashes Win has Zimbabwean Flavour, Again
F - Franchise Cricket Brightens Future
Part 2 (D, E, F)

G - Graeme Cremer creams Kenya
H - Hamilton's Merry
I - Injury woes of Utseya and Co.
Part 3 (G, H, I)

J - Jarvis Junior Jumps in from Nowhere!
K - Kenya Marauded - Not Once, But Twice
L- Lock Locked Out
Part 4 (J, K, L)

M - Maruma Stakes Claim
N - No Sight, but Great Vision - du Plessis Continues to Impress and Inspire
O - Ozias Bvute becomes the Face of ZC
Part 5 (M, N, O)

P - Priceless Price Scales New Heights
Q - Queens Sports Club Roars Back to Life
R - Ripped Apart in Chittagong
Part 6 (P, Q, R)

S - Sibanda's Bradmanesque First Class Season
T - Tatenda Taibu's Troublesome Year has a Terrific End
U - Under-19 Performances
Part 7 (S, T, U)

V - Vermeulen is Back
W - World Records Galore
X - Xmas Break Xpectations
Y - Yet Another Controversy
Z - Zimbabwe Cricket is Back in Favour
Part 8 (V, W, X, Y, Z)

Here's wishing a very happy, fruitful and successful 2010 for Zimbabwean Cricket.

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.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

A-Z of Zimbabwe Cricket 2009: Part 7 [S-U]

S - Sibanda's Bradmanesque First Class Season

Opening Batsman Vusimuzi Sibanda had ended 2008 in a dismal fashion, looking clueless against the Srilankan attack, and the year 2009 too began on the same lines. Apart from a half century against Kenya in the away series, he did nothing much with the bat, which led to him getting dropped from the national team soon after. With a lot of yesteryear players making a comeback to the Zimbabwean cricketing arena, for a batsman of Sibanda's class and calibre, the situation looked very bleak at that point. Another set of failures at domestic level, and he could very well have disappeared into obscurity at the end of the 2009/10 season. But the fighter in Sibanda wanted to prove his worth, and proving himself is what he did for the rest of the season, in a spectacular fashion.

The inclusion of a Zimbabwe XI in the ICC Intercontinental Cup meant that Sibanda got a chance to lead the XI against Kenya, and that was when fun started, with Sibanda almost single handedly beating Kenya with the bat, with scores of 209 and 116 not out. The great batting form continued in the Logan Cup too, where he became one of the primary reasons for the success of Midwest Rhinos. His First Class statistics for the 2009/10 season at the end of the year stood at a whopping 1215 runs at a Bradmanesque average of 93.46, with 8 big hundreds. This almost certainly brings Sibanda back in the national squad frame, and his previous experience of playing in the West Indies whom Zimbabwe are scheduled to tour in 2010 must clinch a berth for him in the touring party.

T - Tatenda Taibu's Troublesome Year has a Terrific End

Talented wicket keeper batsman and former skipper Tatenda Taibu had a torrid year for most of 2009, but ended it on a high note to underline his importance in the Zimbabwe squad. The year began with the news of his contract with Kolkata Knight Riders not getting renewed before IPL-2, thus leading to no Zimbabwean representation in that edition of IPL. Then came the controversy of manhandling and assaulting ZC official Ms. Esther Lupepe, for which Taibu had to go through a court trial, where he was acquitted of the charges. In bizarre turn of events, the ZC itself found him guilty for the same charges and slapped him with a 10 match ban, which kept him out of both legs of the Kenya series.

As form deserted Taibu on the field, off-field drama continued with the playing kit row. His kit got misplaced on the return trip from Bangladesh, and Taibu allegedly refused to play in any kit other than his, and claimed that the new kit he got from ZC were not according to his specifications. This led to his non-inclusion in the away series against Kenya, and the subsequent trip to India where a Zimbabwe XI participated in the domestic One Day tournament. Although we might never get to know the real details behind this ugly and unfortunate story, and the one about the assault charges, the incidents certainly tarnished his image of an "eager-eyed innocent-kid" and made him look like a spoilt brat. Things did not get any better on the field, being out of form, he chose to play some atrocious and ambitious shots too early in his knocks and got out in bizarre ways, which made even some of his ardent fans question his commitment. Injury scares added to his woes too, and took his career to an all time low.

As the end of year 2009 drew closer, many started talking about Taibu as a fading star, but he chose the right platform to spring back to his impressive ways, scoring a hundred and a fifty against the mighty South Africans in the two match ODI series, which earned him the man of the series award. This helped Taibu underline his importance as a big match player, and although Zimbabwe lost both the matches, his and Price's performances in these two matches caught the attention of the world. Taibu was back, and was back with the vengeance. With a lot of revamp happening in Zimbabwean cricket, it is extremely important to have a performing Taibu in the side, and this year-end performance from the little master from Harare augurs well for the future.

U - Under-19 Performances

The only satisfying news about the Zimbabwe Under 19 team for the year of 2009 was that they got some matches under their belt, and hence, valuable time in the middle, as they prepared for the 2010 ICC U-19 World Cup. The results did not inspire much confidence, and although they ran the Pakistan U-19 team close at home on a few occasions, and made the Bangladesh U-19 team sweat for victories while playing away, all they could show at the end of it all was a solitary win over the Pakistanis in the 6th and final youth ODI of that series.

Absence of talented batsman and future hope PJ Moor for the whole of the season due to the injury he picked up while playing Rugby, meant that Zimbabwe U-19 team was not at full strength in these matches, and the Bangladesh tour did not involve many regulars of the U-19 team including skipper Dylon Higgins, who were writing their exams back home. But Moor has apparently recovered and is part of the 2010 World Cup squad, led by Higgins, who himself is in good bowling form. A favourable draw invloving Zimbabwe, Canada, Srilanka and hosts New Zealand in the same group for the league matches invokes hopes of a genuine chance of making it into the quarter finals at the very least.