HAD the T20 World Cup taken place last year, Innocent Kaia and Tadiwanashe Marumani would have certainly been guaranteed places on the plane to Australia.
A magnificent maiden match-winning century by Kaia against Bangladesh, never mind loss of form in the most recent white-ball series, would have done the trick for a batsman in a team that had become accustomed to low standards.
But Kaia’s omission from Zimbabwe’s squad going to the T20 World Cup has not been as much of a surprise as that of Marumani.
Marumani played a crucial cameo earlier this month in Zimbabwe’s historic first win away to Australia, and generally has not had the worst run of form lately in comparison with his teammates apart, of course, from the talisman Sikandar Raza.
The arrival of Dave Houghton as Zimbabwe’s head coach in June has changed team priorities and goal-setting in terms of how players perceive themselves, how they approach matches and how they treat the opposition.
But the bold selections have to pay dividends in the end, and all eyes will be on the chosen 15 players headed Down Under.
Two players in particular, to me, appear to have taken the places of Kaia and Marumani for the World Cup: Milton Shumba and Clive Madande.
Their talents are obvious, and they are young, in their early 20s. But Shumba is walking back into the side straight from injury, and Madande is capped just once in each of the two shorter formats of the game.
Shumba in particular will look to exert himself more following his recovery from injury, and this tournament presents a wonderful opportunity. And he is more than capable. Shumba is the kind of batter who can accumulate runs, and finds the odd boundary. He also offers something with the ball, a part-time spinner the captain can call upon to rush the batters and move the overs. He can pull a rabbit out of the hat.
As for Madande, he joins the team as an extra wicket-keeping option.
On the whole, it is about individuals finding their most effective way of performing in different situations. Shumba, for example, has shown that he is adaptable to most of what the game can throw at him. But he needs to grow in understanding what tools to pull out at any given stage.
I have seen little of Madande, but he definitely is a capable batter, although he will have to challenge himself to be more competent with the moving ball. His glove work is pretty decent, too.
Selection is a thorny subject. The players left out will always feel aggrieved. Somebody like Kaia has proven over quite a few domestic seasons to be solid and composed, and has shown maturity in his young international career. But you would not know what the coaches and selectors went for in choosing a squad, especially for a big tournament.
Marumani is a player you can pick in any Zimbabwe T20 squad, but he has not particularly been firing in the past few games in that format. But we all now know that he is able to change the complexion of the game completely, and I would have had him in the side going to Australia.
But, of course, with a man of Houghton’s calibre in charge, there are plausible factors behind decisions and Zimbabwean players need to get used to these standards.
Team free-riders must be a thing of the past.