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