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A new dawn for Zimbabwe

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Zimbabwe_cricketWhen they arrived on the Sri Lankan islands about two weeks back, not much was expected from Zimbabwe. After all, they were ranked No.11 in the world ODI rankings and had been beaten by teams like Scotland and Afghanistan earlier in the year. Clearly, Zimbabwe cricket was at its lowest ebb and it seemed a clash of monumental disproportion as they geared up to play a 5-match ODI series against Sri Lanka at their home.

But how things have changed in such a short span of time.

Showing the spirit and verve that Zimbabwe cricket was known for back in the 90s, the underdogs fought fearlessly and outplayed and upset Sri Lanka on their own turf to carve out a historic ODI series win, beating their opponents 3-2.

One might argue that this Sri Lankan side is not in the best shape at present. However, not many teams have been able to come to Sri Lanka and beat them in the limited overs format very easily. Zimbabwe achieved that not by fluke, but with smart batting, superb fielding and with some fiery bowling performances. 

So, this is indeed a historic moment in Zimbabwe’s cricket history. A moment that can help them climb out of the abyss they had fallen into and begin the dawn of a new chapter in their sport. 

Why this series victory is significant 

It is often said that winning is a habit. But so is losing. And, unfortunately, Zimbabwe had gotten into a habit of losing regularly for a very long time now. Hence, this series win marks a significant chapter in their cricketing history.

 

This is Zimbabwe’s first away series victory since 2009 and their first bilateral ODI series win against a full member in 16 years; their last one was against Bangladesh in 2001. This is also the first time in Zimbabwe’s cricket history that they have won a 5-match ODI series away from home and only their third bilateral series win against a Test-playing country.

 

What also needs to be taken into account is that Sri Lanka doesn’t lose to lower-ranked teams at home. Prior to this defeat, they had never lost a series to West Indies, Bangladesh or Zimbabwe at home.

Furthermore, before this series win, Zimbabwe had been having a horrible time in limited overs cricket. They were stunned by the much-lower ranked Scotland in an ODI last month and beaten 3-2 by Afghanistan in an ODI series at home this February. At the time, it looked like Zimbabwe had sunk to its lowest. Added to this was the constant political turmoil that has been plaguing their cricket for decades.

But to emerge from that low in such an emphatic fashion speaks volumes about the character of these underdogs. 

When losing becomes a habit for a team, they often find it difficult to even imagine themselves in winning situations. Zimbabwe has come through a very dark episode in recent times to achieve this momentous series win and should be lauded for the remarkable effort.

A new dawn for Zimbabwe?

After the euphoria over this terrific series win dies down, Graeme Cremer and his men will have to begin planning for the future astutely, rather than sitting on the high of one triumph alone.

Zimbabwe’s prolonged poor run has caused serious damage and it will take this team some time to mend that. They have to continue to play with the zeal they displayed in Sri Lanka to win back their fans’ trust and also to climb back up the ladder they had slipped down. And more than that, they have to start believing in themselves if they wish to attain the heights that were once achieved by the likes of the Flower brothers, Heath Streak and Alistair Campbell. 

This bunch surely has the talent. In Sikandar Raza and Hamilton Masakadza, Zimbabwe has two of the finest batsmen they have produced in recent times. Both of them rose to the challenge in this series and it is now up to the others to follow suit. Their squad has some really talented batsmen like Solomon Mire, Sean Williams, Malcolm Waller and Craig Ervine and they need to take responsibility and share the burden with their other two pillars. 

Zimbabwe’s bowling has some real spark now and it was primarily through their combined superlative bowling efforts that they were able to topple Sri Lanka. Tendai Chatara and Chris Mpofu have been excellent with the new ball and captain Graeme Cremer has been very good with his leg-spin. Zimbabwe has a bunch of all-rounders like Sikandar Raza, Malcolm Waller and Sean Williams, who have been more than decent with their spin and are not just bowling tightly in the middle, but also chipping in with crucial breakthroughs.

Zimbabwe’s fielding has always been their hallmark and this unit fields remarkably well.  

Thus, the ingredients are all in place for Zimbabwe cricket now. They have a group of talented players who have seen a lot of downs and have somehow stuck together through the harsh times to rise and shine in the most unexpected manner. Now it will be up to them to make the most of this rare, hard-fought success. 

 

They might not have the best batting or bowling averages like the other more fancied teams, but what this Zimbabwe team does have is a lot of spunk. In fact, much of Zimbabwe’s success in the 90s came precisely because of that attribute. Now if they can only learn to sort out their issues with the board, back each other and believe in themselves, they may well chart out a new dawn in their cricket history. 

 

A competitive Zimbabwe who can challenge the best in the world is essential today. Their spirit and unique character has been missed severely in international cricket these past few years. Here is hoping that this outstanding triumph paves the way for their resuscitation.

For now, though, let us all just take in and applaud one of the finest moments in Zimbabwe’s cricket history. Moments like these are what makes international cricket worth savoring. 

 

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