THE Zimbabwe national men’s cricket team this week reached their lowest ebb when they lost a home T20I series to Associate nation Namibia.
The shock 2-3 defeat at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo was as shocking as it was unacceptable.
For goodness’ sake, Zimbabwe are a Full Member of the International Cricket Council, which places them among the elite cricketing nations in the world while Namibia are an Associate member, who play mostly second-tier cricket.
The gulf between the two nations is always supposed to show, the same way when Zimbabwe play established Full Members like India and Australia.
It is quite disappointing to think that the Chevrons used to give some of these top teams a good run. But the Zimbabweans are no longer that competitive to the extent that the likes of Australia are now doing all they can to avoid wasting time and resources by engaging our senior side, who give them nothing in terms of quality opposition.
This could explain why it has been difficult for the domestic cricket leadership to make bilateral cricket arrangements with other cricket boards, outside the ICC Future Tours Programme.
Very soon the Chevrons will be a liability to international cricket if they do not address the fundamental issues to do with improving competition and development of the game.
Zimbabwean cricket has been in decline over the years. Zimbabwe used to be ranked way above the likes of Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Ireland who came through Associate Membership.
But they can no longer match Bangladesh or Afghanistan. They have been suffering defeats at the hands of every other nation, including Ireland, who recently got Full Member status, and lately Namibia.
A random look at the rankings shows that Zimbabwe have not improved an inch.
Instead they have been going down. The Chevrons are now number 15 on the ODI rankings.
The humbling thought is that Associate Members Scotland, Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates are ranked higher.
This means Zimbabwe cannot enjoy automatic qualification for the World Cup, which comes with higher rankings.
The same with the T20I rankings which place them on 12th position.
They have to go through rigorous qualification processes for the T20 World Cup, like the qualifying tournament they are scheduled to host in July, while the likes of Namibia have automatic qualification, based on their good performances at the last edition.
Zimbabwe last played at the T20 World Cup in 2016. They missed the previous edition due to the temporary suspension of ZC by the ICC.
That is how low the Chevrons have sunk and they had to remind us again with their shoddy showing against Namibia.
What was supposed to be a routine win in Bulawayo ended up being a tight contest which Zimbabwe eventually lost and ended up on the wrong side of history as the first ever Full ICC Member to lose a series against the Namibians.
The defeat was a huge blow to their preparations for the upcoming ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier B, which is the final stage of the qualification process for the T20 World Cup 2022.
The Chevrons players and technical team will need to embark on a thorough introspection ahead of the qualifying tournament.
They need to determine what exactly is the problem. Do they have the right personnel? Are they employing the right strategies?
Unlike Zimbabwe, Namibia have already secured automatic qualification on the back of their fine performances at the last tournament.
As things stand, the Chevrons have a long way to go. In comparison, the women’s team has fared better in terms of recent results.
They won the 11-team ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Africa Qualifier without losing a match last year before dominating their opponents in the recent Capricorn triangular series in Namibia.
The Chevrons have to find ways to turn things around. The local cricket authorities need to address whatever challenges the game is facing to ensure that there is a change of fortunes on the international scene.