What Zimbabwe’s fall means for Test cricket

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They are locked in a vicious circle where the fewer Tests they play, the less competitive they are in the format.
It does not speak well of the health of the five-day game.
As with many press releases, the real meaning was not easy to spot. Nestled at the bottom of the ICC’s press release of May 3 was a note that Zimbabwe had been temporarily removed from the Test rankings table, after failing to play the required eight Tests since the start of the 2013-14 season. Just like that, Zimbabwe were now a ghost Test match nation.
Zimbabwe are adamant that it won’t be this way for long. They will return to the rankings table as soon as they play two Tests against New Zealand, which is likely to be in July.
“We are working round the clock to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” says Zimbabwe Cricket managing director Wilfred Mukondiwa, pointing out that Zimbabwe would never have lost their ranking had the Tests on their recent tour of Bangladesh not been postponed. “Our commitment to Test cricket remains unquestionable and as strong as ever.”
That notion is rather undermined by Zimbabwe’s recent fixture list in Test cricket. In the last 11 years, they have only played 14 Tests. While they were in self-imposed exile for the first six years, they have not played a single Test since November 16, 2014, 540 days ago (till May 9 this year). In their first 13 years as a Full Member, they played 83 Tests: around seven a year.
Removal from the Test rankings is just the latest sign of Zimbabwe’s cricketing decline. In 1998, they defeated Pakistan and India in consecutive Test series; the following year they came fifth in the 1999 World Cup. But five years later, in 2004, the chairman of Zimbabwe Cricket needed to telephone the chairman of Sri Lanka Cricket, imploring him to make Sri Lanka declare to spare his side from further ignominy. Only when Sri Lanka had reached 713 for 3, after Marvan Atapattu and Kumar Sangakkara plundered double-centuries, did they finally oblige.Advertisement

Zimbabwe cricket is in a slightly less desolate state today, but it has failed to capitalise on the promise shown on its return to regular international competition in 2011. They are now ranked 11th in ODI cricket and 12th in T20I cricket, below Associate nations who receive a small percentage of the funding Zimbabwe receive from the ICC.
“On a day-to-day basis ZC is pretty much broke – why that is, I don’t know.
But it makes more sense for them to have limited-overs tours rather than play Tests”- Alan Butcher