The defeat to Ireland was the final straw for Zimbabwe fans. Going out of the World Cup in the group stages was always a big possibility regardless of the fact that Dav Whatmore had eyed a quarterfinal spot.
I felt it was too lofty a goal with Whatmore having spent such a short time with the team. But after the South Africa game, we certainly started believing. Going into the World Cup, the expectation was that we would beat UAE and Ireland and then upset one of the Test-playing nations.
But I think the performance against South Africa made Zimbabwe slightly over-confident, and relaxed – since they put up a good show against South Africa, the rest would be a coast.
The top news in the run up to the match against India was the retirement of Brendan Taylor, and the article by a Zimbabwean journalist attacking John Mooney. Cricket Ireland have threatened legal action over the news piece. Fans were divided about the article with some feeling Mooney deserved it. As they felt he was a ‘cheat’. While others felt that Robson Sharuko, the journalist in question, was unprofessional in his attack. What all fans agreed on was that the loss of Taylor was immense. Taylor had certainly stuck it out through all of Zimbabwe’s tough times. To see him go was a certain sign that there is no hope for the future.
He takes up a three-year Kolpak deal with Nottinghamshire now. Good for Taylor. But, at 32, I am sure he will be back for the next World Cup. Why shouldn’t Zimbabwe call him up if he is in good form? Once again, he confirmed why he has been Zimbabwe’s best batsman over the past years. He leaves with some special memories from this tournament, having become the first and only Zimbabwean to score 400 runs in a single edition, not to mention the back-to-back tons. He brought up his hundred with a six – his signature uppercut behind the keeper getting him there.
Taylor has just gone past Alistair Campbell to become Zimbabwe’s third-highest run-scorer in ODIs. He has also passed Campbell for most ODI centuries. Despite not making the quarterfinals, he left the tournament as one of the top scorers. @Keengstn on Twitter said, “@BrendanTaylor86 should never have to buy a drink in Harare ever again”. Tawac, a Zimbabwe Cricket Forumite, said, “It’s just such an injustice a player with so much skill and love for his country is forced to leave it all behind.” So true.
The middle order of Taylor, Sean Williams and Craig Ervine were Zimbabwe’s mainstay through the World Cup. The big hitters did not show up. We just lacked a batsman who could go in and go at the bowling for three or four overs and score a 50.
There was talk that India would score 500 against Zimbabwe. That did not happen and it’s not going to happen any time soon. We were in with a chance once again as we took India to the 48th over, and we could have been the first team and maybe the only team to beat India at this World Cup. But it seems we don’t have the desire for glory. Tinashe Panyangara proved lethal with the new ball again, and got that early breakthrough he always does. And I still feel the best way to use him is to bowl him out in the first 20 overs or so. Tendai Chatara finished with good numbers as well. But, again, as we have consistently done throughout the World Cup, we put down critical catches. This time Hamilton Masakadza, who put down Suresh Raina, was the culprit.
It has been a painful World Cup for Zimbabwe fans, and hopefully for the players too. I am sure would have felt they squandered an opportunity. Our campaign was never going to be a smooth ride. Our players were engaged in quarrels about how the World Cup money should be disbursed. This resulted in a meeting taking place at the airport before departure. That was a big sign of how things would go.
The talk now is about Ervine and Williams – would they also leave? Would Zimbabwe Cricket pay the players their World Cup fees on time? The good news is that Whatmore has a contract, which will probably keep him till the next World Cup. So if Zimbabwe Cricket does not mess him up, something that cannot be guaranteed, then we have a good chance to rebuild.
Will we be back at the next World Cup? It’s currently not looking good. We have a lot of work ahead of us, we always have, and as usual, Zimbabwe, hopefully, would find a way.
This article was first published by Wisden India