THE eyes of the cricket world will be on Zimbabwe from today when our Chevrons plunge into the first of their Two Test battles against the West Indies at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo.
There are a number of reasons why our boys are attracting such massive interest from around the globe — the return of former captain Brendan Taylor, easily the best batsman we have had in recent times, to the international fold after a two-year sabbatical playing county cricket in England. There is also the return of seamer Kyle Jarvis, who also quit county cricket to commit his services to his country, with his pace and range of skills bringing a new dimension to a bowling attack that was lightweight at this big stage.
Jarvis’ remarkable success in England, where he transformed himself into one of the stars of the county scene for Lancashire, has also spiked interest in his performances from around the world and a lot of cricket fans will be closely following his performance. The other reason why our national team is generating a lot of interest around the world is their great performance in their last tour of Sri Lanka where they defied the odds to beat their heavyweight hosts in the ODI series — in a country where visiting teams rarely win — and then fought all the way to the final session in the Test match.
There are many who feel the Chevrons would have won that Test match had a crucial umpiring decision gone their way, instead of the hosts, during a key phase of that match. Now, the world is watching, wanting to know whether the performances by our boys in Sri Lanka were just a fluke or that show, as we expect, represented the true calibre of a team that has turned the corner, after years of poor performances, and can now compete against the best in the world.
If we beat the Windies, we would have proved that we have, indeed, turned the corner and we are now on the right path and even should we go down, expectations would be that we give it a fight and make this contest as competitive as possible. Our coach Heath Streak, whose appointment appears to be working wonders as he turns around the fortunes of our team, says that the ultimate mission is to ensure the Chevrons qualify for the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup in England and Wales.
The Windies will be one of the nine teams who will come to this country for the ICC Cricket World Cup qualifier in March next year where the top two teams will join the other eight nations who have already qualified for the global showcase. The importance of playing at the World Cup can never be overemphasised; it gives us the bragging rights to beat our chests that we are one of the top 10 teams on the globe and if our teams wins matches there, they would be branding their country and in the process, giving this nation a positive image around the globe.
Then there is also the issue of rich financial pickings which come with playing at the World Cup, and for a domestic cricketing constituency still reeling from a debt estimated at about $18 million, the money that comes from merely playing at the global showcase will be important in dissolving that debt and also fuelling the operations of the game like the key area of development as we continue to look for the next generation of players to represent us in this game.
There is no doubt that something good is happening in our cricket and we have to give credit where it is due, to the efforts of its leader Tavengwa Mukhuhlani who came in on an agenda to ensure that he changes things and it will never be business as usual. He has been putting in the right people in the right structures and his team have been moving mountains within a short space of time, to transform not only the fortunes of our national team on the field, but also to ensure that there is tranquillity in a leadership driven by the agenda to make a massive difference.
That is why we are now seeing even the International Cricket Council having confidence in us to host such big events like the 10-team 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier in March next year and also the 104-nation ICC Annual Conference in Victoria Falls in April next year. We have always argued that cricket is one of our main sporting disciplines and it should be seen to be delivering on a number of fronts and that is why we are happy with the direction that the game is taking right now. But the Chevrons have to perform on the field. That is not even debatable, and that is why we are rallying behind them in their contest against the West Indies, which will be tough given the way the Calypso Kings performed in England. Let’s prove the prophets of doom wrong.