Committed to Competition – Zimbabwe All Time Test XI




The joy of watching an underdog in action is always unbound. The instances of David slaying Goliath have filled the rich history of Cricket from the early days of the game. The advent of Limited overs cricket made a remarkable turnaround in the so called “Upsets” where in the lesser fancied team manages to come on top of the favourite.

The perennially weaker sides are indeed a treat to watch since they more often than not act as banana skin to the stronger opponents. Among the ten test playing nations, one side that has possibly managed to compete if not win on a consistent basis is Zimbabwe. The African side was the ninth addition to the test playing nations and has a modest record. However a peep into their history for the first decade of their test history proves to be different.

The selection of All Time XIs for each team has mostly been an exercise limited to the Top 8 Test playing Nations. However the sides like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh do add a certain charm to the glorious game of cricket and they boast of their own set of fantastic cricketers. This is an attempt at picking an All Time Best XI for Zimbabwe side.

The side has been plagued by the long time dispute between the Government (Board) and the players who revolted against the situation prevailing in the nation. With the other nations stepping in, Zimbabwe withdrew from Test Cricket in 2005 only to return with a bang in 2011 winning the match against fellow underdog Bangladesh. The side is essentially packed with the stars that sizzled during its golden period of 1997 – 2001 when they had some class performers with high reputation in international cricket.

As one browses through the annals of the Zimbabwean cricketing history, he is likely to come across few players who ‘ld automatically walks into the XI. However the competition for rest of the places is quite intense. My XI would be a conventional one with 5 batsmen, 4 bowlers, 1 allrounder and 1 wicket keeper. Here is the squad:

Grant Flower

A predominantly middle order batsman, younger Flower was fixture in the side for almost a decade. Batting right handed, he had a temperament of steel and made some impressive scores in Test matches. Flower was an opener at the start of his career before shifting to the middle order. Given the paucity of quality openers in their history, he opens my XI. His debut innings against India and double century against Pakistan leading Zimbabwe to their first test win are just indications of his ability. He was a useful spinner and a classy fielder in the infield. He even made a comeback in 2010 to International cricket and had for long been a legend in English county cricket.

Alistair Campbell

The Southpaw Campbell is Zimbabwe’s successful skipper during their prime days in 1999. He led the side almost to the Semis of World Cup 1999. In Tests he was another middle order batsman but his few experiments at opening position had been stupendous making him another opener in my XI. Campbell was a powerful stroke maker and had a niche of elegance in his shots. He made two good centuries in Tests and has a terrific ODI record too.

 

Murray Goodwin

Having spent his formative years in WACA, Perth, Goodwin managed to play few matches for Western Australia before migrating to his homeland. He soon became a top order batsman for the weak side giving lot of depth to the side’s line up at No 3. He was adept against pace and spin and his cuts and pulls oozed the Aussie flavour. Despite playing few matches he has a respectable average. His career was cut short by family issues but he still will have a place in the realms of Zimbabwean history for all his class and elegance.

Andy Flower

The Man is in News for leading the English side to zenith of test nations as their wonderful coach. But senior Flower was no less a cricketer in his prime. During the turn of the millennium he was bracketed among the best batsmen in Cricket and for a brief period, he led the rankings too. He is the only man from his country to have a fifty plus average in test cricket. He was a quality wicketkeeper too. Flower was the best batsman from the nation and was the only one who could stand against any attack anywhere. Enough said; he will walk into any Zimbabwean XI as the first name.

Dave Houghton

Zimbabwe’s first test captain, Houghton was a wicket keeper batsman of high quality who made a mark in their first test itself scoring a century on debut. He still holds the highest test innings by Zimbabwe batsman and led the side valorously in their formative years. He was destructive and defensive and could adapt to the situation quite brilliantly. He will lead my XI for his cricketing acumen despite not so impressive captaincy record.

Guy Whittall

A true quality allrounder, Whittall was a man any skipper would love to have in his side. He was a middle order batsman with ability of clearing the ropes at will and could anchor the tail to add some respect to the total. His medium pace bowling was street smart and he had the knack of breaking partnerships. In the outfield he was athletic and could easily fill in the all rounder slot.

Tatenda Taibu

A pocket sized dynamite, Taibu replaced Flower behind the stumps so that the latter could concentrate on his batting. The man himself was not a pushover with the bat. He honestly led the side during their tumultuous period. Despite some awful performances and dispute with the Board, he still manages a respectful average in the Zimbabwean standards. He will don the gloves in my XI where he was decent in tests. His thunderous shots were a pleasure to watch given his short stature. He recently quit cricket for serving the religion but will hold a place in the hearts of the cricket lovers for his commitment and enthusiasm.

Heath Streak

The only bowler of quality to be produced by the African nation was also their skipper before the dispute set in. Streak was accurate and wily with his pace and had some lovely cutters and nippers in his armoury. He stands tall among the Zimbabwean bowlers distancing him from the rest of the crop by miles. He had a lovely action and a good follow through. With Andy Flower, he will command the first name in the XI by any one. Notwithstanding his exploits with the ball, Streak was a more than useful lower order batsman and can be bracketed as an all rounder too.

Eddo Brandes

Brandes was a veteran when Zimbabwe made their test debut. He learnt his trade in the bouncy South African pitches and had a wonderful out swinger to probe top quality batsmen. He might not enjoy an envious record as his successors but he led their attack in the infancy stages with big heart. But for his age and fragile body, Brandes could have ended up with bigger returns. Nevertheless he will be in my XI as the third seamer.

Ray Price

In a career spanning a decade, Price is the best spinner produced by Zimbabwe inching ahead of equally good Paul Strang. He had the guile and accuracy of a conventional slow left arm spinner and was very tough to put away. Even when they were not playing Test matches, Price could leap to the top three of ODI bowling rankings. His economy was unbelievable and he could extract bounce from the pitches. His standout quality was his accuracy though. He will be the spinner in my XI.

 

Henry Olonga

A man known for his curls and whirls, Olonga was a quality pacer with tearing pace. He could move the ball on both sides though he tends to be erratic many a times. Olonga formed a potent pair with Streak during the late nineties and early noughties giving quick breakthrough early in the innings. He later joined Andy Flower to rebel against the regime thanks to his honest humanity. He will open the bowling with Streak in my XI.

The squad looks decent if not threatening. They might not give their opponents a run for their money, but this XI can compete at the highest level on a consistent basis. A batting order that bats deep until No 9, few quality all rounders, 3 wicket keepers, a spinner of high quality and 4 pacers to stifle the opposition is as good a package as you can get.

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Author:

Dr.Arvind Subramanian is a Dental Surgeon from Chennai, India. A native of Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu he, like most other youngsters of India, he is a fanatic fan of Tendulkar and a hardcore Cricket buff. He has a great interest for Writing and writes on various subjects from Medicine to Arts and Culture to Cricket. He is also a good classical dancer and performs on various Sabhas and Art Centres often and is also an orator He is about to pursue his higher studies in his field. You can find him in Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1409700718

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