The past legacy and present limitations of Zimbabwe Cricket
The Flower brothers – Andy and Grant, the Whittal Brothers – Guy and Andy, and the Strang Brothers – Paul and Brian, along with a handful of others, were the pillars of Zimbabwe cricket in the late 90s and the early part of the 21st century.
Zimbabwe then was a team capable of staging quite a few upsets, and when they defeated teams like India and South Africa in the 1999 Cricket World Cup, they showed promising signs for the things to come.
A glorious past
With players like Murray Goodwin, Alastair Campbell and Heath Streak, Zimbabwe would have become a force to reckon with, had political reasons and internal problems within the cricket board not surfaced over the years.
Neil Johnson, a genuine allrounder who opened both the batting and bowling and won three Player of the Match awards in the 1999 World Cup, stopped playing for Zimbabwe after a spat with their cricket board.
Andy Flower, with his never-give-up attitude and dashing stroke play, lifted Zimbabwe several times from situations where they were staring at defeats to take them to the doorstep of victory.
In a 289-run chase, his 145 in the 2002 Champions Trophy took India by surprise – the difference between the teams was only 14 runs in the end and there were no noteworthy contributions from anyone else in the Zimbabwean batting order. The fact that he also kept wickets proved that he was an asset for Zimbabwe in his time.
His brother Grant, along with Stuart Carlisle and Craig Wishart later, was part of a respectable looking top-middle order. With Alastair Campbell being the dangerous batsman he was, Zimbabwe had a steady if not reliable batting line-up. It is worth mentioning that the Flower brothers still top the list of keading run-getters for Zimbabwe in both ODI and Test cricket.
All-rounders Guy Whittall and Sean Ervine bowled at fast-medium and contributed usefully with the bat. Though Spinners like Paul Strang and Adam Huckle could not rise beyond a certain level, there were glimpses of their ability on display.
Look-back for inspiration
Streak’s name seems to be synonymous with Zimbabwe fast bowling -–certainly for now and at least for few more years to come. Although 13 years have passed since he stopped playing, he remains Zimbabwe’s highest wicket-taker in the formats he played. Partnering Eddo Brandes, Henry Olonga and Douglas Hondo, he was the backbone of Zimbabwe's dynamic bowling attack.
There were moments of individual brilliance too – the most popular one being that of Douglas Marillier, who was widely credited for inventing the scoop – which created enough consternation among the Indians, as they went on to lose the match which they had under their control in 2002.
Campbell and Streak led Zimbabwe admirably, with the Flower brothers chipping in as captains from time to time. Tatenda Taibu had to take over the captaincy of an inexperienced team and handled the role in an exemplary manner.
Time to change things up
With a myriad of reasons affecting Zimbabwe Cricket today – the latest being the sacking of support staff after Zimbabwe could not qualify for the World Cup – the team needs their players to regroup, the board to have a strong domestic system in place so as to take care of the needs of the players.
With their predecessors like Dave Houghton who is considered as one of the two best Zimbabwe batsmen along with Flower, Zimbabwe need not look beyond towards their own past for inspiration and hope that off-field factors change for the better.