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Zimbabwe removed from the Test cricket

by Staff reporter
12 May 2016 at 07:47hrs | Views
AS with many press releases, the real meaning was not easy to spot. Nestled at the bottom of the ICC's Press release of May 3 was a note that Zimbabwe had been temporarily removed from the Test cricket rankings table, after failing to play the required eight Tests since the start of the 2013-14 season.

Just like that, Zimbabwe were now a ghost Test match nation. Zimbabwe are adamant that it won't be this way for long. They will return to the rankings table as soon as they play two Tests against New Zealand, which is likely to be in July.

"We are working round the clock to ensure this doesn't happen again," says Zimbabwe Cricket managing director Wilfred Mukondiwa, pointing out that Zimbabwe would never have lost their ranking had the Tests on their recent tour of Bangladesh not been postponed. "Our commitment to Test cricket remains unquestionable and as strong as ever."

That notion is rather undermined by Zimbabwe's recent fixture list in Test cricket. In the last 11 years, they have only played 14 Tests.

While they were in self-imposed exile for the first six years, they have not played a single Test since November 16, 2014, 540 days ago (till May 9 this year). In their first 13 years as a Full Member, they played 83 Tests: around seven a year.

Removal from the Test rankings is just the latest sign of Zimbabwe's cricketing decline. In 1998, they defeated Pakistan and India in consecutive Test series; the following year they came fifth in the 1999 World Cup. But five years later, in 2004, the chairman of Zimbabwe Cricket needed to telephone the chairman of Sri Lanka Cricket, imploring him to make Sri Lanka declare to spare his side from further ignominy. Only when Sri Lanka had reached 713 for three, after Marvan Atapattu and Kumar Sangakkara plundered double-centuries, did they finally oblige.

Zimbabwe cricket is in a slightly less desolate state today, but it has failed to capitalise on the promise shown on its return to regular international competition in 2011. They are now ranked 11th in ODI cricket and 12th in T20I cricket, below Associate nations, who receive a small percentage of the funding Zimbabwe receive from the ICC.

And the fewer Tests they play, the more Zimbabwe are locked in a vicious cycle. As former captain Brendan Taylor put it last year, "If you are playing two Test matches a year and hardly any four-day cricket, you are always going to struggle." And as long as Zimbabwe play so little, their chances of being competitive are so scant that few will want to play or watch them in Test cricket.

Zimbabwe's lack of Tests also contributes to their best players leaving.

Taylor has long complained about the country's lack of cricket, which he said was a big factor in his move to Nottinghamshire last year. Few will mourn that Zimbabwe have become the invisible Test nation. Yet their slow departure from the Test arena bodes ill for the vitality of the longest format. A team of the standard of Zimbabwe in the late 1990s — and with fixtures and good administration, a side including Taylor, Kyle Jarvis, and even Gary Ballance and the Curran brothers, other products of Zimbabwe who have been lost, could surely have been just that — would be a boost to Test cricket. A game that only allows 10 nations to play cannot be blasé about one of those teams disappearing, even as sports around the world expand with haste.

The fear is that Zimbabwe's withdrawal from Tests, even if not official, is just the latest sign of interest in Test cricket being eroded.

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Source - Cricinfo
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