Robson Sharuko in MELBOURNE, Australia
ZIMBABWE might have crashed out of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup on Saturday, but the country provided some of the stand-out performers, with Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams illuminating the global showcase, with some of the best batting performances of the group stages.
For a team, which just three months ago was the laughing stock of the global cricket community after a disastrous tour of Bangladesh, Taylor and Williams’ outstanding performances with the bat showed just how much the Zimbabweans have progressed under the guidance of veteran coach Dav Whatmore.
The Australian gaffer was thrown into the deep end, just two months before the start of the World Cup, but he has weaved his magic, especially after turning Zimbabwe into a powerful batting machine, and there are many authoritative voices who believe that he should be given an extended term in charge of the team.
Taylor, the country’s best cricketer, was highly critical of the way his players threw away a golden chance to take their battle for a place in the quarter-finals into the last game, after a controversial defeat against Ireland in Hobart on Saturday.
“We’ve been very disappointing, there is no doubt about that. We came here to win three games and we haven’t done that,” said Taylor.
“There’s been positions against South Africa, against West Indies, against Pakistan, where we could have got over the line if we had been smarter as batters.
“Hold our catches, put our bodies on the line when we field and, at times, we have been very sloppy and that has come back to haunt us.
“We have played some excellent cricket, for 80 percent of the time we have been there, but that 20 percent is why we are not going to progress.”
But the experienced batsman praised Whatmore for the huge influence that he has made on the team, in a short space of time, and while the unforgiving statistics will show that, so far, they have only won one out of five matches at this World Cup, even their harshest critics noted the steps they have taken going forward.
Sometimes you need a little bit of luck, to compete against the best, and the unfortunate Zimbabweans did not have that when fate appeared to battle in the corner of their opponents with the West Indies, Pakistan and Ireland all benefiting from strange but decisive calls that were largely against our cricketers.
Taylor, who hit a century to become the latest Zimbabwean cricketer to pass 5000 runs in ODIs in that losing cause against the Irish, has been impressive with the bat and turned himself into one of the stand-out performers of the group stages.
His century against Ireland, leading from the front after being named the stand-in skipper following the injury to Elton Chigumbura, was one of the knocks of this tournament, in what has been hailed as the best game of this World Cup so far, absorbing the pressure that came with the fall of cheap four top order wickets, in the chase, to lead from the front and take his team within touching distance of the Irish massive total.
Sadly, he wouldn’t take his men past the line, despite repairing the damage cause by that top-order collapse, in a game that will always be remembered for the controversy that saw Williams being dismissed in diabolical fashion, just when he appeared set to take his team home.
Taylor’s century meant that he has scored 295 runs at this World Cup in five innings, at an average of 59, with a highest score of 121 against the Irish, and only two players, in the group stages so far, have done better than the Zimbabwean batsman when it comes to turning themselves into run-scoring machines.
A month after this tournament got underway, only Sri Lanka master batsman Kumar Sangakkara, one of the greatest cricketers of all-time, and South African run-scoring machine, AB de Villers, have scored more runs than Taylor.
The ageless Sangakkara has so far scored 372 runs, in five innings, at an average of 124 runs per every game, with a best score of 117 not out at this World Cup and leads the batting statistics of this global showcase.
Proteas’ sensational skipper, de Villiers, hailed as the best batsman in limited overs cricket in the world today, is second on that table with 318 runs, from five innings, at an average of 79.50 runs per game and a best score of 162 not out.
And, in third place, you see Taylor, who has scored 295 runs, in five innings for his country in the group stages of this World Cup, at an average of 59 runs in every game that he has played and with a best score of 121 against the Irish.
Taylor is in good company as Hashim Amla, the brilliant Proteas’batsman, is also in third place, with 295 runs, at an average of 59, with a best score of 159.
And, just to demonstrate that Zimbabwe’s batting has improved in the past three months, and that the Chevrons were not a hopeless outfit at this World Cup, Williams sits in sixth place, in the top 10 of those whose batting has produced most of the runs, with 289 runs.
Williams has even scored more runs than Chris Gayle, the West Indies batsman, who set the tone for the highest scores of this tournament by hitting an incredible 215 against Zimbabwe, having been given a life at zero when he should have gone trapped lbw.
The left-handed batsman, whose dismissal of Saturday will forever be remembered as one of the World Cup’s darkest moments, has top-scored with a 96, that unforgettable scoreline against the Irish when many Zimbabweans feel he was robbed of a deserved century.
Sangakkara has the best batting average, in five innings, of 124 and Williams is in sixth place with his 72.25.
For the most fours scored at this tournament, Taylor is in eighth place, with 28 boundaries, with Sangakkara, once again, in first place with 41 fours, his teammate Tillakaratne Dilshan in second place with 36 fours and Brendon McCullum, the New Zealand skipper, in third place with 34 fours.
Williams is in third place, for the most 50s scored in the group stages, with three half-centuries while Taylor is in seven place, for the most sixes scored.
Bowling hasn’t been Zimbabwe’s strongest weapon at this World Cup and that is reflected in the figures with Tendai Chatara, a big hope for the future, among the bowlers with the most maidens (four) at an average of 28.30.