BLESSING Muzarabani continues to be a bright spot of Zimbabwean cricket after authoritative website, ESPNCricinfo, selected the rangy fast bowler in a Dream Team of 11 Test cricketers under the age of 25 “destined for great things” in the next decade.
On Thursday, a Cricinfo panel made up of three influential cricket journalists – Raunak Kapoor, Alan Gardner and Danyal Rasoor – picked a fantasy line-up of the best young players in the world in a studio show adjudicated by Sreshth Shah, a sub-editor on the popular online website.
Responding to the question “what will the world’s best Test XI look like 10 years from now?”, Zimbabwe pace spearhead Muzarabani was a popular choice of the three experts, who settled for India prodigy Rishabh Pant as captain of the side.
Muzarabani has seen his stock rising after signing for English county team Northamptonshire in 2018 on a three-year contract, a deal that was cut short by a year due to changes brought about by Brexit.
The Harare-born right-armer returned to the Zimbabwe team towards the end of 2020 and his eye-catching performances in international cricket over the past six months have now earned him a place on this compilation of some of the game’s best young players in the world today.
Kapoor, an Indian multimedia journalist who has worked for Cricinfo since 2013, was particularly full of praise for the 24-year-old exciting prospect of Zimbabwe.
“I went with Blessing Muzarabani in my side,” said Kapoor in the broadcast.
“It’s just that Zimbabwe’s fast bowling legacy is so barren it boils down basically to Heath Streak or Eddo Brandes for his hat-trick (in an ODI against England in 1997). But other than that, I think Zimbabwe has been crying for a bowler like Muzarabani, whose figures in the last six months reflect more of his ability than in his time with Northamptonshire. He did not get a chance to play white-ball cricket at Northamptonshire, he was troubled with an injury. But I spoke to Jason Holder (ex-West Indies captain who teamed up with Muzarabani at Northamptonshire), he said he was encouraged by how Muzarabani bowled. When he was fit, he showed Northamptonshire what he was capable of.”
Away from the County Championship, Kapoor also lauded Muzarabani’s bowling since the tall pacer’s international comeback last October.
“Zimbabwe has played Pakistan a fair bit and he has already dismissed Babar Azam (Pakistan star batsman and captain), I think, six times, in the overs he has bowled to him. He has managed to get pace and bounce on wickets that aren’t sometimes conducive to his cricketing strengths. And also, playing cricket for Zimbabwe must be one of the hardest jobs in world cricket. It’s the closest that you come to be an amateur and also having to deal with other life realities. So, I’m going to go with him based on all these factors.”
To put into perspective the high regard Muzarabani is held, the Zimbabwean forms a three-pronged pace attack in the Dream Team with Shaheen Afridi and Naseem Shah, the Pakistani pair tipped to eventually inherit the mantle of the most feared fast bowlers in the world.
“I like the idea of a tall line-and-length seamer in there, alongside the wildcards of Shaheen Afridi and Naseem Shah,” Cricinfo assistant editor Gardner said in reference to Muzarabani.
Rasoor, a Cricinfo staff writer who has professed growing up being a big fan of the Zimbabwe side of the 1990s and early 2000s, chose Muzarabani for his bowling discipline ahead of South Africa fast bowler Gerald Coetzee.
“Yeah, because we have Shaheen Afridi and Naseem Shah, we have lots of pace in the side,” Rasoor remarked. “So Coetzee might be overdoing it. We might compromise on control so yeah, like Alan said, Blessing Muzarabani is a line-and-length seamer so alongside Naseem Shah and Shaheen Afridi, I just think he (Muzarabani) is the perfect choice. He can take the new ball with Shaheen, then Naseem Shah comes in at first change. We’ve got quite an intoxicating mix when it comes to those fast bowlers.”
The high recognition of Muzarabani by the game’s most respected media outlet will give Zimbabwe’s fans some reason for cheer in the wake of severe criticism towards the African team following recent crushing innings defeats to Pakistan in a two-match Test series.
Another player with Zimbabwean connection in the Dream Team, meanwhile, is England all-rounder Sam Curran, the Northampton-born son of the late former Zimbabwe cricketer and coach Kevin Curran.
Dream team in batting order
1 – Shubman Gill (India) 2 – Will Pucovski (Australia) 3 – Zak Crawley (England) 4 – Pathum Nissanka (Sri Lanka) 5 – Washington Sundar (India) 6 – Rishabh Pant (India, c & wkt) 7 – Sam Curran (England) 8 – Rashid Khan (Afghanistan) 9 – Blessing Muzarabani (Zimbabwe) 10 – Shaheen Afridi 11 – Naseem Shah (Pakistan) 12th man – Lasith Embuldeniya (Sri Lanka).