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Zimbabwe's chance to shine

Back in the glory days: Zimbabwe
Back in the glory days: Zimbabwe's Andy Flower
Divy Tripathi
ANALYST
Modified 05 Mar 2021
Feature

If this was 2001 and one woke a fan up and told them that the Zimbabwe cricket team were engaged in a Test tussle with Afghanistan, the fan was more likely to laugh the statement off.

Afghanistan stood in the middle of a war, while Zimbabwe were still a force to be reckoned with international cricket.

Such has been the reversal of fortunes over the last twenty years that this Test series is not only a possibility but also one of the few cricketing opportunities left for Zimbabwe in the Test arena. The last time they played some of the heavyweights in the longest format of the game was in the early and mid-2000s, last facing England in 2003 and India in 2005.

Riddled with several internal issues, Zimbabwean cricket has been in flux since 2004. And issues have only complicated in recent times, with tours standing cancelled and cricketing activity stagnating. Still, the Zimbabwean cricketers and team management have tried to do their best in the face of adversity.

Once upon a time: Flower Brothers
Once upon a time: Flower Brothers

They now come up against a rising force in Afghanistan, who are new entrants to this format. The Afghans will want to prove themselves in their first-ever two-Test series.

They have enough experience with the likes of Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Afsar Zazai, and Rashid Khan (who was dearly missed in the first test) in the side. With these conditions likely to favour the Asian side, they may just be a force to be reckoned with.

They will also be buoyed by the fact that they have improved by metes and bounds in the four Tests that they played before this series began, including an amazing away win over Bangladesh. Afghanistan have shown over the years that if they are given an opening, they like to make the most of it.

Zimbabwe can't be counted out easily

Brendan Taylor has evolved into one of the most important batsmen in Zimbabwean cricket history.
Brendan Taylor has evolved into one of the most important batsmen in Zimbabwean cricket history.
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They have shown the hunger to play Test cricket, with some phenomenal performances against the sub-continental teams, including a victory against Pakistan in 2013, nearly upsetting Sri Lanka in 2017, and winning a Test in Bangladesh in 2018.

And perhaps the same lesson was learned by the Afghanistan team in the first Test at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, when Zimbabwe pulled off a stunning two-day finish against them.

Though they were missing out on the experience of Brendan Taylor, Chamu Chibhabha, Kyle Jarvis, and Peter Moor, the likes of Blessing Muzarabani, Victor Nyauchi, and Sean Williams led the team to a memorable victory.

This win is a testament to Zimbabwean resilience and their dedication to international cricket. With T20 and T10 leagues sprouting up around the world, it could have been easy money for some of the players to leave Zimbabwe for greener pastures. However, they have dedicated themselves to playing for Zimbabwe and to stick by their side through thick and thin.

Given that Zimbabwe have played very few Test matches in recent years, this series against Afghanistan is a great opportunity to show the world what they are made of. Winning the first Test is a big achievement in itself, given what a dangerous side Afghanistan can prove to be. However, winning the series itself would be the real deal.

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They will also have to be wary about the return of Rashid Khan. One can say that the stakes for the second Test have been raised even higher given how Zimbabwe played in the first Test.

The series itself has, so far, been a good advertisement for a multiple-Test encounter between these nations, as opposed to the one-off Tests they are usually handed in international cricketing schedules.

Published 05 Mar 2021, 11:59 IST
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