Vusi sweats be­hind mic

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport - Ray­mond Jar­avaza Sports Cor­re­spon­dent

IT was dif­fi­cult to tell whether Vusi Sibanda was more un­com­fort­able be­hind the mi­cro­phone when Zim­babwe crashed to 164 all out against New Zealand than if he had been bat­ting out in the mid­dle.

His team-mates were be­ing shot out by the short ball, a de­liv­ery that has been Sibanda’s neme­sis for as long as he has been play­ing. To call them out for their short­com­ings was more thanhan Sibanda could bring him­self to do.

“It’s easy for me sit­ting up here to crit­i­cise, but I al­ways try and be a bit more care­ful on what I say.

‘‘New Zealand have one off the best bowl­ing at­tacks around. It’s just that our bat­ter­sters didn’t give them­selves a fair chance to be able to score­ore big.

‘‘The sur­face it­self is a goodood bat­ting wicket - there are no de­mons. Had we give­nen our­selves a chance, I’m sure we would have put upp a de­cent to­tal,” Sibanda said.

“It’s easy to nail peo­ple andd if that was me and I had done the same thing, peo­ple would be say­ing the same thing as well. I know the feelingeel­ing and it’s not great. I have been hurt­ing to see thathat and I feel for them as well.”

The con­flict of in­ter­est of be­ing a cur­rent player as part of the com­men­tary teamm aside, Sibanda, who has been part of the sys­tem for 122 years, is as well placed as any­one to as­sess where the prob­lems lie.

Ac­cord­ing to him, it is not as if there is a skills short­age, be­cause Zim­babwe’swe’s schools con­tinue to pro­duce tech­ni­cally cor­rect crick­eters, even if many of them can­not go onn to pur­sue the game pro­fes­sion­ally.

It is more a case of be­ing over­awed by the oc­ca­sion, on the few chances Zim­babwe get to play in­ter­na­tion­al­na­tional cricket.

“We’ve all got the ba­sics,cs, we know how we need to go about things tech­ni­cally. It’s moree the mind­set and also get­ting useded to bat­ting long.

‘‘Guys have to ask them­selves,elves, how long can you keep do­ingg the ba­sics? The mind has to thenn take over.”

And Sibanda is a clas­si­cas­sic ex­am­ple of when that doesn’toesn’t hap­pen.

He has been chron­i­cal­ly­cally un­able to trans­late his tal­ent into in­ter­na­tional tons. In 14 Tests,ts, he has two fifties but no hun­dreds.eds.

In 127 ODIs, he has only two hun­dreds, one of which was against a Full Mem­ber.r. He av­er­ages un­der 25 in all three for­mats in­ter­na­tion­ally.

With a record that hass not im­proved enough over a 12--year in­ter­na­tional ca­reer, the sec­on­de­cond half of which was full of se­lec­to­rial snubs - Sibanda was left out in se­ries against South Africa and Bangladesh in 2010, the New Zealand tour in 2012, dropped dur­ing ODI se­ries against Bangladesh (2013) and Afghanistan (2014), left out of the 2015 World Cup squad and the tour of Pak­istan later that year - the sun could be set­ting on him.

That was the view of the lo­cal news­pa­per, NewsDay, in Septem­ber 2015, but Sibanda re­mains fo­cused on get­ting his spot back.

He was con­vinced he had done enough to be part of the squad for the on­go­ing se­ries against New Zealand and does not know why he was side­lined.

“I thought I was go­ing to be part of the squad, I’d done all the prepa­ra­tions. I didn’t get to speak to Makhaya [Ntini] or [Ta­tenda] Taibu, but I am pretty sure they will speak to me at some point. It’s ob­vi­ously sad, but there’s not a lot I can do about it.”

That com­mu­ni­ca­tion break­down is symp­to­matic of Zim­babwe cricket’s self-termed tran­si­tion un­der new chair­man Tawengwa Mukuh­lani.

The start­ing XI for the first Test was only an­nounced close to mid­night on the eve of the match, although the squad had been told they would find out af­ter their morn­ing prac­tice ses­sion.

Many of them spent an anx­ious af­ter­noon try­ing to as­cer­tain whether they had made the cut.

Per­haps even Sibanda was among them be­cause when he ar­rived at Queens on Tues­day af­ter­noon, he dis­cov­ered the full ex­tent of Tino Ma­woyo’s in­jury. A short ex­change be­tween the two men went like this: “I heard you got hit again,” Sibanda said to Ma­woyo. “No, not again,” Ma­woyo replied. “I was only hit once and you were there.” Sibanda was part of the Zim­babwe A side that played against the tour­ing New Zealan­ders in Harare and had to stand in as an opener when Ma­woyo was in­jured. “But you’ll be fine to play to­mor­row?” Sibanda asked Ma­woyo.y “No, I’m not go­ing to play.” In the end, Zim­bZim­babwe chose to pick the open­ers from the se­lected squad­squ and used Chamu Chib­habha and Brian Chari in theth roles. While Chib­habha showed some prom­ise, Chari strug­gled, although heh had the added re­spon­si­bil­ity of keep­ing wicket for twtwo days. Now, with Ma­woy­oMa­woy yet to have a full net, Sibanda may be in line and de­spite not be­ing in ac­tion for a week, he be­lieves he will be ready. “You don’t lose a lotl from not do­ing much for five or six days. I played­playe a three-day game against the New Zealan­ders in HarareH and even though my score wasn’t great I felt goo­good. ‘‘I will still be pre­pared­pre to play but it de­pends on what the think­ing is,” he says. Sibanda made a duckdu and 37 in that match and has scored just two fifti­ies in his last nine in­ter­na­tional in­nings, which does not scream fine form. But taken in its con­text - Zim­bab­weZimb have very few play­ers who have been among ththe runs re­cently - it may be good enough, es­pe­cially when cou­pled with Sibanda’s ex­pe­ri­ence. “I’m feel­ing in goo­good nick. From the World Cup up un­til the last se­riesserie we had against In­dia, I thought ev­ery­thing waswa good,” he says. “I’m feel­ing good and my con­con­fi­dence is up there.” If he ddoes not get the call-up, then he is eeye­ing the pro­posed tri­an­gu­lar be­twee­be­tween Zim­babwe, Sri Lanka and West Indies, which could be played in early Novem­ber. “Hope­fully I do get a gig then so I can try and fight for my spot.” BBut if he is not picked, does SibSibanda think his in­ter­na­tional caca­reer may be reach­ing its end? “No, not yet. I know I’ve played fo­for 12 years. So I’d say, hope­fully, I hhave another four or so. ‘‘I feel fit and strong. If my body is still go­ing strong, I will just push fo­for as long as I can. If I am still able tto keep up with the in­ten­sity level, tthen I will keep play­ing.” That’s what a lot of Zim­babwe’s pplay­ers are likely to say when asked if they will con­tinue try­ing to make it in a sys­tem that does not al­ways ap­pear to be fully func­tional. Zim­babwe Cricket has suf­fered as much as the coun­try in the eco­nomic down­turn and the ef­fects are wide­spread. From a do­mes­tic struc­ture strug­gling to take shape to play­ers’ salaries that are of­ten un­paid, there are times when the game, like Sibanda’s ca­reer, ap­pears to be sink­ing, but the man him­self holds out hope that both can be res­ur­rected. “The game is al­ways go­ing to be there. They are putting so much ef­fort into the re­struc­ture. It’s only a mat­ter of time when things to get back into shape,” Sibanda said. “I be­lieve things will change even­tu­ally. It doesn’t mat­ter when it hap­pens or how long it takes, things will get back to where they should have been if things were done in the right way.” — ESP­N­Cricinfo A TO­TAL of 750 ath­letes, of­fi­cials and del­e­gates had reg­is­tered for the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Uni­ver­si­ties and Col­lege Sports As­so­ci­a­tion (CUCSA) in Bu­l­awayo yes­ter­day.

De­spite a false start on Mon­day that saw fans wait­ing for hours for the of­fi­cial open­ing cer­e­mony to com­mence at White City Sta­dium and the games’ sched­ule only be­ing re­leased yes­ter­day, CUCSA sec­re­tary-gen­eral Nshimbi Mwale was con­fi­dent the event would be a suc­cess.

Mwale told jour­nal­ists at the Bu­l­awayo Poly­tech­nic, the games’ com­mand cen­tre, that it would be un­fair to judge the state of pre­pared­ness of the games based on the false start ex­pe­ri­enced on the open­ing day.

“Two years ago Zam­bia hosted the games and I can tell you that host­ing an event of this mag­ni­tude comes with its set of chal­lenges and not ev­ery­thing will run 100 per­cent smoothly.

‘‘The aim of the games is to pro­mote re­gional in­te­gra­tion amongst our ath­letes through sport and if we can achieve that then we will be sat­is­fied as CUCSA,” said Mwale.

The Zam­bian of­fi­cial said the CUCSA ex­ec­u­tive had been in­vited to the coun­try ahead of the games to as­sess the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Zim­babwe and were sat­is­fied that all ath­letes would be safe in the af­ter­math of civil dis­tur­bances that rocked part of the coun­try last month.

“We were as­sured by the lo­cal or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee and the Zim­bab­wean gov­ern­ment that our ath­letes will be safe and the fail­ure by Mozam­bique, Swazi­land and Namibia to take part is not as a re­sult of safety con­cerns.

‘‘We should ap­pre­ci­ate that coun­tries in the re­gion are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing eco­nomic chal­lenges and the three coun­tries couldn’t make it due to fi­nan­cial con­straints.

“Even some Zam­bian in­sti­tu­tions were re­luc­tant to re­lease their stu­dents, but af­ter re­as­sur­ances from the Zim­bab­wean au­thor­i­ties, we were sat­is­fied that the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion was well un­der con­trol,” he said.

Mean­while, in foot­ball matches played yes­ter­day at Bar­bour­fields Sta­dium and Harts­field Grounds, the Zim­babwe men’s team drew 1-1 with Botswana, while the Zam­bian ladies team beat Botswana 4-0.

In bas­ket­ball, South Africa men lost 67-70 to Zam­bia. the Zim­babwe women’s team beat Zam­bia 3-0 in vol­ley­ball.

The Zim­babwe men’s ten­nis team won three matches against Malawi, while their ladies’ com­pa­tri­ots won three matches and lost one against Botswana.

More bas­ket­ball and vol­ley­ball matches were sched­uled for last night at the Zim­babwe In­ter­na­tional Trade Fair (ZITF) to af­ford mem­bers of the pub­lic a chance to watch the games.

Ath­let­ics and chess are slated for to­day at White City Sta­dium and the Na­tional Univer­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy (Nust). — @Ray­mondJar­avaza

Vusi Sibanda

From left: ZITISU pres­i­dent Martin Zibwi, sec­re­tary gen­eral Oli­varth Gu­vuriro and CUCSA sec­re­tary gen­eral Nshimbi Mwale

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