New Zealand and Zimbabwe have just about finished their rather one sided series. Martin Guptill has certainly enjoyed it, scoring 51, 70, 77, 85 & 91* so far in this tour.
However three Zimbabweans have stood out to me so far:
The captain and best batsman has not been in vintage form with the bat, but has still managed to average 42.33 at a strike rate of 92. If his team was not so awful, he would have been noticed a lot more for what he has done.
If I was going to pick a player to watch from this series, it would probably be Elton. He has given his all in every match. He hasn't given up when his team was in a hopeless situation. There is a story about a MMA fighter who was in an arm bar and refused to tap out. His opponent broke his arm, and he still refused to tap out. The referee stopped the fight, and he complained, saying that he had just figured out how to win with one arm. Elton looks like the guy that would try to win with one arm.
Less well know than his brother, Shingi has bowled his heart out, and batted with purpose. When he has had the ball in his hand he has been all about taking wickets. He has tried to hurry up the NZ batsmen. He has tried to bounce them. He's tried to move the ball off the seam. No backward step. With the bat he has refused to wave the white flag, instead trying to hit his team out of trouble.
And then the disappointment:
Why bother turning up if you are going to play with an attitude like Taibu. His stats look reasonable, but they belie his negative contribution to the team. Here's what I have not liked:
1. In the first game Zimbabwe had a genuine chance, and he batted so slowly that there was no hope for the team once he got out. If you are going to bat slowly, make sure you are at least turning over the strike so the guy at the other end can score. 11 scoring shots out of 29 balls, with only 2 boundaries, is not good cricket.
2. In the second game he gave up on winning, and tried to lose with dignity. The team needed 8 an over when he arrived. He hit 18 off his first 34 balls. The powerplay was on and he did not once try and hit over the top. He instead defended, left the ball, checked his drive and pushed it back to the bowler. I drove almost 3 hours to see that match. It was the worst case of a batsman batting for his average rather than trying to win a match I have ever seen. (With the possible exception of Shane Thompson defending the last ball of an ODI innings back in the Rutherford era.) The scorebook shows Taibu scored a 50. What it doesn't show so much is that it was possibly the worst 50 in the history of cricket. (possibly a slight exaggeration)
3. In the third match Taibu again came in with the team needing about 8 an over. Again he set about making sure his team had absolutely no chance of scoring that. At the other end Taylor was attacking, scoring 65 off 62. Taibu defended roughly half the deliveries that he received, racing along to 26 off 45. A low scoring rate does not imply a lack of intent. Chigumbura scored 16 off 30 in the same match, but he was not good enough to get hold of Nethula, and despite trying to attack him was often not even able to connect with the ball. It's one thing to be not good enough, it's another to show no intent.
If Zimbabwe are to get back to the heights that they achieved with Alistair Campbell, the Flowers, Streak, Olonga, the Whittals, the Strangs etc they need players with the attitude of the first three, who try to win every game, rather than trying to lose with dignity.