EDITORIAL COMMENT: Time for Chevrons to start afresh The Chevrons will arrive in Sri Lanka on 3 January with a three-game ODI series starting from January 6 and this will be followed by a three-game T20I series between January 14-18. 

IN what is, undoubtedly, the lowest point for Zimbabwe Cricket, the national cricket team will not be taking part at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in the West Indies and the United States mid next year.

Remarkably, Zimbabwe will be the only Test-playing nation missing at the tournament after failing to secure a Top 2 finish at African qualifiers, which had the continent’s cricket minnows.

As the only Test-playing team at the seven-team event, Zimbabwe were odds-on favourites to secure a ticket while hosts Namibia and Kenya were then expected to battle for the remaining slot as they are the more experienced of ICC Associate members. 

However, the Chevrons had the worst possible start as they lost to Namibia and things went horribly wrong in Game 3 when they lost to Uganda by five wickets.

Having spent about two weeks in Windhoek to prepare for the qualifiers in October, a lot was expected from the Chevrons especially the game against Namibia.

However, the performance under new captain Sikandar Raza was shocking and even coach Dave Houghton went public to lambast what he called an “embarrassingly bad performance” as they lost by seven wickets against Namibia.

When the Zimbabwe Cricket board axed Craig Ervine and put Raza as captain, they expected a successful qualifying campaign but in the end the failure to qualify suggests that there is more to the humiliation than just the leadership qualities of Ervine.

That the team still lost to Uganda and Namibia while at full strength is worrying. Pace bowler Blessing Muzarabani and all-rounder Sean Williams were added to the squad that lost a five-match T20 series against Namibia 3-2 and a lot was expected this time.

Two defeats in the opening three games meant destiny was no longer in Zimbabwe’s hands and despite the big wins against Rwanda, Nigeria and Kenya, the Chevrons were eliminated from what was supposed to be an easy path to the 2024 World Cup finals. And on Thursday morning the Chevrons were battling Kenya while hoping for a miracle from Rwanda against Uganda.

But so bad were Rwanda that their game was over while Zimbabwe v Kenya was halfway and Uganda had achieved the historic feat of making it to the World Cup finals for the first time in their cricketing history.

And with the outcomes on Thursday, a new chapter was added to the Chevrons’ miserable run with ICC tournaments.

In a very sad statistic, the Chevrons failed to make the cut for the 2019 and 2023 ODI World Cups, after not finishing in the top two in qualifying tournaments held at home where conditions are known and favourable.

This happened twice!

And by failing to qualify for the 2023 ODI World Cup in India, Zimbabwe were automatically eliminated from the 2025 Champions Trophy.

In another sad statistic, the Chevrons were excluded from the 2021 T20 World Cup as Zimbabwe Cricket had been suspended at the time by the ICC when the Sports Commission suspended the ZC board. By the time the ban was lifted, it was too late to reinstate the Chevrons.

Poor results at the 2022 T20 World Cup where they finished bottom with one win in five games in the second round meant that the Chevrons failed to qualify directly for the 2024 edition of the T20 World Cup mid next year.

It resulted in these qualifiers in Namibia, which ended in agony on Thursday. Now Zimbabwe will miss out on the big money that would have been available with participation at the T20 World Cup next year and the Champions Trophy in 2025.

That means a lengthy dry spell for Zimbabwe Cricket.

At administrative level, Zimbabwe Cricket intends to come up with 10 000-seater stadiums in major cities including a new international venue in Mutare.

That effort will count for nothing if the results on the field are negative. When the team plays well, interest is generated among budding players and also fans which is why Harare Sports Club was filled to the extent of overflowing in June during qualifiers for the 50-over World Cup.

Poor results make Zimbabwe unattractive for sponsorships and bilateral series against the top teams and, again, this creates financial problems for Zimbabwe Cricket.

The Chevrons have not had enough T20 internationals to be competitive and their more consistent opponents are Bangladesh as they have played 20 matches in the period between 2015 and 2022 with the Tigers winning 13 of them.

There are only five countries that have played the Chevrons in T20 internationals exceeding 10 matches in the history of the game, Bangladesh (20), Pakistan (18), Afghanistan (15), Ireland (12) and Namibia (11).

All the heavyweights have played Zimbabwe in less than 10 matches each up to now including India (8) who have the world’s most popular domestic tournament, the IPL, England (1), Australia (3), South Africa (6), New Zealand (6), Sri Lanka (3) and the West Indies (4).

A new chapter for the Chevrons will have to target more matches against the heavyweights and this chapter has to start now.

With the failure to qualify for the World Cup, it is the ideal time to start afresh by introducing those players who have performed well on the domestic front while retiring a number of veterans that have failed to justify their continued presence in the Chevrons.

The overall Chevrons record in T20 Internationals is just too bad to delay the renewal process in the team ahead of future bilateral tours while waiting for the next World Cup opportunity.

However, the renewal process has to be handled with care. Whenever a team loses there will be demands for the coach to go but in the case of Zimbabwe Cricket, if Dave Houghton is fired as speculated on social media, then what?

ZC has fired coaches but results are constant. When the Chevrons lost against the UAE it ended the late Heath Streak’s reign as coach, when the team lost a series at home to Namibia last year it marked the end of Lalchand Sitaram Rajput.

Now it is Houghton under the spotlight. But there has been one constant in all these phases and it is the players.

Probably time to focus there!

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