Zimbabwe Cricket Board Must Act On Cricket World Cup Qualification Failure
Sunday marked the conclusion of the International Cricket Council Cricket World Cup with Afghanistan being crowned champions after a seven-wicket victory over West Indies at Harare Sports Club.
The final was a mere formality with both countries headed for next year’s World Cup. How sweet would it have been had Zimbabwe made it to the final and secured that ticket to England and Wales.
It has been a roller coaster of a tournament full of twists and turns as well as disappointment. For the Zimbabwean fans, the heartbreak is still fresh. They came out in their thousands to back their team from the start in Bulawayo and last Thursday when the Chevrons decided to lose to part-time cricketers from the United Arab Emirates.
Graeme Cremer and the rest of the team gave the fans so much hope with spirited displays in the group stage which saw them close out Afghanistan by two runs and secure a tie against Scotland, both matches they appeared to have lost.
Coming tops in their group, the Chevrons headed to the Super Six stage Harare in high spirits. Their brilliant form continued when they made up for a shambolic batting display with a magnificent show with the ball to beat Ireland by 107 runs.
The victory over Ireland took Zimbabwe to five points and with the Irish doing the Chevrons a huge favour by beating Scotland, all the host nation needed was a single win from their remaining two matches against West Indies and UAE.
Zimbabwe could have won both matches, actually, they have no reason for losing them. West Indies, two-times former world champions were actually in danger of being eliminated while UAE were clearly the weakest team of the tournament.
Instead, the Chevrons failed to defend 289 against the Windies but they still had one more shot at qualification. Harare Sports Club was packed, with gates later closed in the afternoon when the facility reached its full carrying capacity.
Signs that something bad was going to happen were there when the Tatenda Taibu led selection panel chose to tinker with the team, leaving out the big-hitting Cephas Zhuwao as well as left-arm spinner Tendai Chisoro and replacing them with Peter Moor and Tendai Chatara.
As if that was not enough, Cremer won the toss and decided to bowl yet all along Zimbabwe had defended most of the scores in the matches they had won.
Just how Cremer opted for such a decision when there was a high possibility of rain later on in the day, only him and the rest of the team know better.
Zimbabwean bowlers were very relaxed on the day together with the fielding and when rain interrupted play, UAE had compiled 235 for seven. It was no surprise when the target was revised to 230 in 40 overs for Zimbabwe. The D/L method is a computerised system which takes into account a number of factors when calculating the revised target.
Only Sean Williams stood out with a run a ball 80 but the rest of the batsmen simply failed to spark on a day their country needed them to be at their best.
Some have rushed to defend the players but if people are, to be honest, there is nothing to defend here. A number of teams have scored over 230 in Twenty20 cricket so how could Zimbabwe fail to chase that score in double the overs?
It is hard to understand how cricketers who are paid on average 10 times more than doctors and teachers in this country can fail to beat a bunch of part-timers from UAE when the World Cup is at stake. We are told that Duncan Fletcher’s group used to sell cakes on weekends to fund cricket activities but they still managed to qualify for the 1983 World Cup via the same Qualifier under difficult circumstances. Our cricketers are now by far the highest paid locally based sportspersons in this country. They even had the luxury to go on strike over a decision to transfer money into their bank accounts because they wanted to receive their daily allowances in hard currency.
It was really unbelievable to see Craig Ervine, the last remaining batsman give strike to a tail ender. Ervine could have sent that last ball into the State House grounds, nobody cared where that ball could have landed, all the country needed was a six to go to the World Cup.
Had they lost to Afghanistan, Scotland and even one of the small teams we would not have been surprised but to excite the fans the way they did only to disappoint them the way they did is unacceptable.
Now the failure to qualify has cost Zimbabwe Cricket $1 million which would have assisted a lot with the preparations. The players stood to benefit from the funds as a portion would have been put aside as an incentive to the team. We wonder what more motivation our players needed in order to qualify.
Had they qualified, by now sponsors would have been falling over each other to associate with the sport.
The ZC board wasted no time in meeting on Sunday to review the debacle. We can only hope that they made firm decisions to take the game forward. Those responsible for the failure should be held accountable and if it means some lose their jobs, so be it. It cannot be as painful as the anguish the nation went through last Thursday.