Chevrons begin redemption mission in SA

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Robson Sharuko

 

HARARE

 

SIX months after the Chevrons self-destructed at Harare Sports Club, and blew a golden chance to qualify for the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup in England and Wales, the tough battle to win back the support of the fans who endured that excruciating pain in March, begins in earnest in South Africa at the end of this month.

Images of how Zimbabwe’s cricketers collapsed in spectacular fashion, after being handed a golden opportunity to book a place at next year’s World Cup by beating minnows United Arab Emirates, have haunted the game’s constituency since that rain-swept day at Harare Sports Club.

All that the Chevrons needed was to beat the UAE and secure a place at the ICC Cricket World Cup, and the rich financial pickings that come with such an adventure, but – before the biggest crowd to watch a cricket match in this country – the team nose-dived to a heartbreaking three-run defeat via the Duckworth-Lewis method.

And, six months down the line, the game in this country is yet to recover from the blow.

The thousands of fans who turned up at Harare Sports Club for that final battle against the UAE, with thousands more being locked out after it became apparent that allowing them in could trigger a stampede, have turned their back on the game.

Only a few fans attended the limited overs series that featured Australia and Pakistan, which followed the heartbreaking failure to qualify for the World Cup, with even fewer fans turning up for the battle against Pakistan in Bulawayo where the Chevrons were outclassed.

But that is just one of the negatives that have stalked the game since that unforgettable day in March this year when the dreams of a nation were shattered by a shock defeat.

Brendan Taylor, reputed by many as the best cricketer in the Zimbabwe team, has never played for the Chevrons since that World Cup Qualifier meltdown against the UAE at Harare Sports Club.

And, he isn’t the only one, among the key players.

All-rounder Sean Williams, too, is yet to play for his country since that afternoon when his half-century almost took his team over the line against the UAE before his dismissal, at a crucial stage of the match, ended all hopes for the Chevrons.

Craig Ervine, the last of the remaining batsmen who was there at the very end of that game against the UAE, and who needed a six off the last ball to take his country to the World Cup next year, hasn’t featured for the Chevrons since that game.

The three players missed the duels against Australia and Pakistan because of a rift with the country’s cricket leaders triggered by outstanding allowances and salaries which Zimbabwe Cricket, then looking for a bailout from the ICC, could not afford to pay.

However, that fallout has since been resolved, after the ICC committed to provide funding to Zimbabwe Cricket, opening a channel for a reconciliation between the senior cricketers and the domestic cricket leadership.

Now, for the first time since that meltdown against the UAE, Zimbabwe will throw a very strong team into battle when they tour South Africa at the end of this month with the Chevrons hoping to be competitive against their more powerful neighbours who have always bossed their battles.

"My aim is to build a stronger team and take Zimbabwe cricket to the next level and that is my biggest challenge," new Zimbabwean coach Lalchand Rajput said.

‘’I would like the team to play positive cricket, play hard and play to win. Hard work, team work, consistency, discipline and maintaining fitness levels would be my main focus areas.

‘’South Africa and Bangladesh are among the toughest tours.

"But I think tough tours make you and the players even tougher. So with my experience I will make the players tough and to perform better in tough conditions. I am very excited to get on the road with this team.

"To have a full squad will be excellent. They (senior players) will bring additional strength and confidence to the team. The likes of Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams and Craig Ervine – their coming back means a great deal.’’

Key all-rounder Sikandar Raza will not be part of the tour of South Africa and Bangladesh as talks continue between the player and the game’s authorities to mend the bridges built by a fallout over the way the star decided to play overseas without the blessing of the leaders.

Raza was not offered a central contract by Zimbabwe Cricket but has been talking to the game’s leaders as they try to find a solution to the challenges dividing them.

Cricket South Africa named a strong team for the battle against their neighbours.

“We have also recalled Khaya Zondo to the ODI squad as another part of the pool broadening process. He had an outstanding quadrangular series for SA A in India against high quality opposition, scoring our only century and having a strike rate of 95,’’ Cricket SA said.

“We still have ODI series after this one against Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka as we get closer to finalising our likely World Cup squad.

“We are resting Kagiso Rabada from the T20 Series as he has a very busy season ahead of them.’’

Captain Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, Imran Tahir and Dale Steyn are some of the key players in the Proteas team that has been named to take on their Zimbabweans counterparts.

 

ZIMBABWE TOUR TO SA 2018

 

September 30 : 10h00, 1st Momentum ODI, Diamond Oval, Kimberley (Day)

October 3 : 13h00, 2nd Momentum ODI, Mangaung Oval, Bloemfontein (D/N)

October 6 : 13h00, 3rd Momentum ODI, Eurolux Boland Park, Paarl (D/N)

October 9 : 18h00, 1st KFC T20 International, Buffalo Park, East London (D/N)

October 12 : 18h00, 2nd KFC T20 International, Senwes Park, Potchefstroom (D/N)

October 14 : 14h30, 3rd KFC T20 International, Willowmoore Park, Benoni (Day)

 

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