RESULTS aside, a refreshing aspect of Zimbabwe’s cricket team over the past few years has been the widening of the selection pool.
For a very long time, selectors have not had such a positive headache about who should be in the side and who should not.
Even the narrative among fans has changed drastically. Whilst not so long ago they had resigned to hurling insults at their own team due to one disgraceful performance after another, the Chevrons faithful these days have the luxury of discussing team tactics, batting positions, basically just talking cricket in a non-crisis situation.
On all accounts, it is a very good place to be.
One, it brings focus on everybody’s role in the team, hammering home the reality that the days of free riders are long gone.
Accountability breeds responsibility. Escaping the consequences of one’s performance – or hiding behind group failure as I have termed it before – has been an Achilles’ heel of this team, and it had lasted far too long.
I am not the only one to have been captivated by the red-hot cricket talent that has come out of Chitungwiza over the past few seasons. Many are in absolute awe, that this small dormitory town can give a country so much hope that the future of a whole sport is safe.
But unlike a few years ago, nothing at the moment indicates that young Clive Madande (pictured), one of the Chitungwiza wonder-kids, will keep his place in the side forever on the basis of hitting the winning boundary off the last ball in the thrilling first ODI win over Ireland on Wednesday.
Madande does look like real talent. He is in the side now primarily for his wicket-keeping and, with Regis Chakabva out of the picture at the moment, the 22-year-old, who sure can also hot a bat, will be an easy selection in the foreseeable future.
However, with competition for places intensifying, and then somebody like the opening batsman Tadiwanashe Marumani also competent behind the stumps, nothing is guaranteed anymore in this Zimbabwe side if guys do not protect their places in the team as if their lives depend on it.
In head coach Dave Houghton, Madande has the ideal mentor.
After the Chevrons completed a 2-1 series win in the T20Is contest, Houghton told us in the post-match presser how he had himself first got into the Zimbabwe side as a young specialist wicketkeeper in a team full of accomplished senior batters.
And we all know what Houghton went on to become, arguably the greatest batsman Zimbabwe has ever produced.
Wicket-keeping is an art on its own, but there comes a time you have to back it up with runs and Davey knew it.
It is a lesson not just for Madande, but for all the rookies in the current side. Countless newbies like them have fallen by the wayside before. We dread to think it will happen again with this generation.