Friday, 22 March 2013

West Indies still have issues to deal with, but who'd be Zimbabwe?

A 2-0 series win, one by an innings and the other by nine wickets, can cover a multitude of sins. West Indies don't have that many to cover, but there remain problems. But Zimbabwe can take few positives from a poor tour, and look nothing like a Test team.

The main problem for the visitors was their batting, in four Test innings they put up totals of 211, 107, 175 and 141. Only Tino Mawoyo made it to 50 in the series, and he could go no further, departing for just that. Brendan Taylor had a poor tour overall, and scored 72 runs at 18 in the Tests. Other than him, the biggest disappointment in the batting was Vusi Sibanda who hit some crisp strokes, made a start in all four innings, but failed to get past fifty once. His talent is such that he's worth persisting with for Zimbabwe, but he's got to start scoring big runs soon.

The visitors bowling was the reverse of the West Indians, with the seamers bowling well and the spinners struggling. Kyle Jarvis took a five-for in the first Test and generally looked threatening, whilst Tendai Chatara showed enough to work with. On the spin front, Ray Price was as reliable as ever and strangely dropped for the anaemic Prosper Utseya for the second Test. Leg-spinner Graeme Cremer took some punishment across the two Tests, and failed to get the help from the surfaces that was there, never spinning the ball hard enough.

Zimbabwe will never improve until the facilities are better back at home, and they get to play more Test matches. At the moment, they are barely good enough to be a Test nation, and unlike the likes of Bangladesh they don't have many big weapons in the one day game. The batting is weak, Brendan Taylor is no Andy Flower, and while the opening partnership has potential, the lower middle order looks poor. Kyle Jarvis needs a partner, and if Glen Querl wants to play for Zimbabwe that gives them another good swing bowler. Add a tall quick bowler from somewhere and there is the makings of something there, but the question on who's going to replace Ray Price in the long run is no closer to being answered.

On the bowling side of things for the West Indies, Shane Shillingford dominated, taking 19 of the 40 Zimbabwe wickets to fall in the series. Marlon Samuels picked up some 10 cheap wickets with his javelin balls, Sunil Narine must be kicking himself. Best and Roach were below par but Shannon Gabriel seems to have cemented his place in the team with some disciplined bowling at a sharp pace, and was unlucky not to have taken the new ball at any point.

Batting wise, they put up good totals first up in both Tests, and only Bravo and Powell missed out on significant scores in either Tests. Darren Sammy and Dinesh Ramdin turned the First Test with their partnership, but both may be batting a place to high when it gets to playing against better quality opposition.

That's the main problem the West Indies will have to deal with: team balance. Darren Sammy shouldn't get in the team as a player alone, his bowling has gone downhill, and his batting hasn't improved enough to make him a genuine all-rounder to bat at number seven. He's been an inspirational captain, but he's no Brearley, and against better opposition he will either negatively affect the bowling or the balance of the side. There's no easy answer, but the selectors will have to come up with one before the Pakistan series at home.

Zimbabwe's next assignment is a home series against Bangladesh, where they should compete more. Their comeback Test, back in 2011, was against the same team, and they fought out a convincing win. Bangladesh have improved since then, and Zimbabwe have gone backwards. It will be a tough test for both teams, and it's a shame it's only two Tests. In series between two evenly matched teams like these, there should be at least three, ideally four Tests. Neither team plays enough Test cricket, this should be their chance to change that. Unfortunately, money talks, and the series isn't a big enough draw to merit more matches.

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