Former Proteas spinner PAT SYMCOX says South Africa’s performances must be taken with a pinch of salt as Zimbabwean cricket is in a state of crisis.
Proteas coach Ottis Gibson will need to resist taking too much out of South Africa’s three-match ODI series against Zimbabwe because if his charges play half-decently against the tourists, they will clean up handsomely. The series against a beleaguered Zimbabwean side is by no means a buildup to the 2019 Cricket World Cup and, by all accounts, it’s set to prove a hit and giggle for the South Africans.
The shoulder injury to regular captain Faf du Plessis has opened the door for JP Duminy to skipper the side in the ODI series. I’m glad Duminy has been appointed captain because it’s something of a reward for him. I was very surprised when they opted for Quinton de Kock during the series in Sri Lanka. Duminy boasts vast experience, is batting well in the middle order and is the ideal stand-in.
I wouldn’t read much into the upcoming clashes against Zimbabwe because I reckon it’s going to be a walkover series and you have got to feel sorry for the Chevrons. However, I hope that the Proteas selection panel resists handing out caps across the ODI and T20 series just for the sake of it. I firmly believe that the Proteas must play their strongest team, win properly and create a culture whereby it’s hard to get into the team, even if you are playing against poor opposition. Playing against lowly Zimbabwe shouldn’t be the criteria by which you give everybody a chance. Sport at this level is all about winning and creating momentum. I would be disappointed if we didn’t maul Zimbabwe badly.
There is such a bad smell around Zimbabwe cricket at the moment. They are cash-strapped and their structures have gone to the dogs. Zimbabwe Cricket has paid the price for running the system badly for a long time. It’s a brave move from the former national coach, Heath Streak, applying to the High Court seeking an order for the provisional liquidation of Zimbabwe Cricket owing to the board no longer being able to pay its debts. I’ve known Heath for a long time and he is by no means a money-grabber. I think he is taking on the role to fight against Zimbabwe Cricket on behalf of others as well.
It’s going to take a lot of work to get Zimbabwe Cricket back on track – not only from a playing point of view, but from an administrative and financial perspective as well. If you don’t have the cash, you cannot employ top coaches and expect players to perform. Exploiting coaches and players is a no-no.
An argument can be made for South Africa to do more to assist Zimbabwean cricket. In fact, there is probably a case that Zimbabwe should somehow be competing within the South African system. It would allow them to play decent cricket on a regular basis. It’s damn hard to play top-class cricket against a powerhouse like South Africa if you are not having it at home. I know Zimbabwe beat Sri Lanka in an ODI series in 2017 – every now and again you are going to win – but Zimbabwean cricket is not producing enough and I know for a fact that their league and schools system is not what it was.
Streak must be applauded because it was time somebody took Zimbabwe Cricket to task. The state of Zimbabwean cricket is a concern to the ICC, and unfortunately, it’s reached a point where the rest of the cricketing world is asking, do Zimbabwe really deserve to be at the top echelon of the game?
The ICC needs to stand up and say: ‘Listen, we need to get our hands dirty and get involved for the sake of the sport.’
The bottom line is that Zimbabwe Cricket needs an outsider to assist. They need someone, who hasn’t been tainted by anything before, to perform the administrative role properly.
PAT SYMCOX COLUMNS
Photo: Julian Herbert-IDI/IDI via Getty Images