Zimbabwe may have gone down tamely to Sri Lanka in the tri-series final. But, that should not, for a moment, dishearten either the team or its supporters. When the series began, no one had given Zimbabwe a chance of making it to the finals. The fact that they made it, and that too at the back of three emphatic wins in four matches – two against India and one against Sri Lanka – proves that theirs has been the real victory, the story of the series.
For India and Sri Lanka, these games were supposed to be practice matches, which was reflected in the teams the chose. But, for Zimbabwe, this was an opportunity to face-off against big boys after a long time, albeit second-string teams. And so, nothing can be taken away from them for the effort the put into their matches, and making the series an unexpectedly interesting one. And so, world cricket should slowly but surely start taking Zimbabwe seriously once again.
The reversal in the final notwithstanding, Zimbabwe had plenty of gains, clearly the most, among the three teams on display. First and foremost, it was their confidence level that needs to be appreciated. In all the games that they won, they outclassed their much-superior opponents in a thoroughly professional manner. Undoubtedly, this was one of the primary factors why there were able to make a huge impression in the series.
Moving on to individual performances, there were a number of memorable ones from Zimbabwe’s side. The one that instantly comes to mind is that of ‘Man of the Series’ Brendan Taylor. Leaving the finals apart, he made a match-winning contribution in most of the other games, and was aptly chosen as the player of the tournament.
Batting at the top of the order, Taylor was at his irrepressible best, getting the team off to great starts in the company of Hamilton Masakadza. More significantly, he has the ability to stay at the crease till the very end, which played such a major role in Zimbabwe’s flourishing fortunes. With all the strokes in the book and a proper aptitude, Taylor seems set for a long innings in international cricket, if Zimbabwe’s political situation allows him to do so.
Amongst the others, as mentioned earlier, Masakadza provided excellent support to Taylor, and ensured the run-rate was always at acceptable proportions. Tatenda Taibu also proved his worth yet again, chipping in with crucial knocks throughout. His effort in the final may have been in vain, but it kept Zimbabwe in high spirits after they got off to a disastrous start. The tiny Taibu is experienced way beyond his age, and should now remain a vital cog in this outfit for a number of years.
Apart from the experienced guys, there were a couple of surprise packages too. Craig Ervine’s match-winning knock on debut was a veteran-like effort. If he can carry on from where he has started, Zimbabwe cricket will be served well. The skipper Elton Chigumbura also chipped in and wasn’t the worst in his first series as captain either.
Looking at the bowling, there were a couple of plusses in that department too. While the medium-pacers were surprisingly efficient against India, the spin of Greg Lamb and Ray Price shockingly troubled them even more. It helped that India went in to their games with a negative mindset; still the bowlers need to be given equal credit. It needed a Tillakarante Dilshan special to bring them down to earth.
At the start of this tri-series, Zimbabwe were down in the dumps. But, thanks to the confidence gained from the last couple of weeks, things are already looking better for the home team. With West Indies’ unrelenting slide, world cricket is desperate for a competitive Zimbabwe team.
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