For Zimbabwe to remain relevant, they need more game time against top sides – something that continues to reduce every season. Will the new 9-3 proposal rescue them?
ZIMBABWE Cricket (ZC) will welcome the ICC’s proposed scheduling revamp which, if adopted, should see the country benefit from more fixtures, more often. National coach Heath Streak is hopeful that not only will game time allow Zimbabwe to drastically improve their performances but will also encourage players to stay in the country instead of moving their playing careers elsewhere.
“When the Future Tours Program was changed to operate on a negotiation basis – that really hurt us. There was no obligation for people to play some countries and too much emphasis was on the financial viability of tours and not enough on the development of cricket worldwide,” Streak told ESPNcricinfo. “And it also had the effect of us losing some players because people who play international cricket want to do so regularly. They want to play something like ten Tests a year and 20-30 ODIs. That’s what we are hoping to get.”
In 2014, three years after Zimbabwe’s Test comeback, the FTP was moved from a centrally controlled program to a bilateral structure, which allowed the member countries to negotiate their own series. In that time, Zimbabwe have only played eight Tests and even though they have enjoyed more limited-overs matches – 63 ODIs and 23 T20s – the bulk of those have come against Bangladesh (two series) and Afghanistan (three). They have not played England at all and have not had any Tests against India, Pakistan, Australia or West Indies.
That is set to change under the new proposal, which is based on a 9-3 split that will see Zimbabwe grouped with Ireland and Afghanistan and will guarantee at least one Test against all Full Members in every two-year cycle. A tentative idea is for teams to travel to Zimbabwe on their way to South Africa. Zimbabwe will also be part of an ODI league, which will mean more matches in an attempt to qualify for the World Cup.
Geoff Allardice, the ICC’s general manager of cricket, will travel to Zimbabwe next week to explain the new structure ahead of an ICC scheduling workshop, which will be attended by Streak, and Tatenda Taibu, who works in a multi-faceted role at ZC. It is understood that Allardice will assure Zimbabwe the 9-3 split will not marginalize them, as they feared it would, but will ensure they have a fuller cricket calendar and that, in time, more teams may be added to the bottom tier, which will result in even more matches.Advertisement
For now, though, Zimbabwe have to rely on themselves to plug the gaps – the latest of which would be as long as four months between the end of the recently completed series against Afghanistan and a yet-to-be-confirmed trip to Scotland in June-July on the way to Sri Lanka in August. Zimbabwe’s A side are planning a trip to Namibia in the interim which could take place around April-May, when Streak will be at the IPL in his role as Gujarat Lions’ bowling coach, a deal that was negotiated when he took the job.
Although Streak will be away, he is likely to keep a keen eye on proceedings if the A team plays, because it is from there that he finds his best performers. “It’s no surprise that the guys who performed against Afghanistan were the same players as those who had done well in the A series we had just before,” Streak said.
Tendai Chatara is the best example. After finishing as the leading wicket-taker in the A series, Chatara was second, behind Chris Mpofu, in the ODIs against Afghanistan. Tarisai Musakanda, the top-order batsman who scored one of Zimbabwe’s four fifties in the series, was another.
Although Zimbabwe lost 2-3 and so, have yet to beat Afghanistan in an ODI series, Streak was not too disappointed in the result, and said his men still have a lot of unfulfilled potential. “I feel as though we had a lot more left in the tank than Afghanistan did. Our bowling was really good and we are a better fielding side and if we can encourage a few players to come back, then in a year’s time, I am confident we can play a side like this and look to dominate them,” Streak said.
Brendan Taylor was one of Zimbabwe’s high-profile cricketers who chose
a lucrative Kolpak deal over playing for his country