Amol Rajan: Zimbabwean cricket has begun its journey back to respectability

Rajan's Wrong 'Un

Largely unnoticed by their brethren in the international cricket community, Zimbabwe have slipped back into the Test arena after a self-imposed ban of six years. The ban might have come anyway, because of the impossibility of institutional operations under Robert Mugabe's tyranny.

But their exile was keenly felt, and events of the past few days offer mixed clues to whether Zimbabwe can again become a competitive Test-playing nation.

Zimbabwe's has been a remarkable evolution. When Dave Houghton led a bunch of amateurs on to the field against India in Harare in 1992-3, spectators everywhere expected a spanking. It didn't come. Instead, the minnows established a first-innings lead and only failed to secure victory because of a superb century by Sanjay Manjrekar. As Liam Brickhill of espncricinfo.com noted this week, in that Test Houghton became the first player to score a century on his country's debut since Kent-born Charles Bannerman hit 165 for the Australians against England in Melbourne in 1877.

By the late 1990s, the Zimbabweans had several very talented players, including the Flower, Strang, and Whittall brothers, Heath Streak and Murray Goodwin. But the retirement of those players coincided with a decline in fortunes. In 2005, they were thumped inside two days by South Africa and New Zealand, then embarrassed by India. Tatenda Taibu, the diminutive and loquacious wicketkeeper from Harare, described that first day against South Africa at Newlands as "the worst day since I started playing for Zimbabwe".

Unfortunately, the players have still not received their fees for the World Cup. Nor have they been paid for the past 12 months or signed contracts for this match. That is why Taibu, who follows Sydney Barnes, Bishen Bedi and Warwick Armstrong in demanding better deals for players, was at it again.

"I don't think much has changed really," he said. "When you walk around and you see a house that's painted well you will think that house is really standing strong. But if it does not have a strong foundation, it will fall down one day or another. Zimbabwe Cricket [the new governing body] has just painted a house that's about to fall."

His ire was mainly directed at the chairman of selectors, Alistair Campbell, who described the comments as a "slap in the face" and promised that he would "have it out" with the player. But then a funny thing happened. Campbell and ZC Managing Director Ovais Bvute issued a statement saying they could tolerate such dissent, and "wish him [Taibu] the very best in the Test match. He is one of our finest cricketers". Their maturity was a pleasant surprise.

Zimbabwe's players still live in the shadow of a despot, have scarce resources to work with and a weak domestic competition. But if the players work hard, Zimbabwe's six-year hiatus may come to be seen as a glorious pupation.

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
News
i100
Sport
footballLatest scores and Twitter updates
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad