“Once upon a time, there was a team that had batters who could demolish any bowling attack and likewise, bowlers who could scare the s*** out of any batter. When their XI entered the field, there was fear in the opposition. But as time passed by, the aura diminished. Minnows mowed them as if they were push-overs….”
Hold your horses’ folks! I am not telling you a bedtime story. Unfortunately, this is the reality of West Indies cricket.
Growing up as an 89-born, when I started watching cricket, Australian domination was at its summit. Like everyone, you believe what you see and thought no one could match those guys. But, when my dad told me about the West Indies team of the ’70s and ’80s, phew! That was not domination, that was instilling fear in opponents. There is no doubt that this was the golden era of West Indies cricket.
Looking at them now, it is beyond imagination and that has been the story of their downfall in cricket.
On the other hand, Zimbabwe are playing a Test for the first time since July 2021. All eyes will be on Gary Ballance, who is making a return to the Test arena, but in a Zimbabwe jersey. Dave Houghton has been one of the most successful coaches for Zimbabwe, in recent times. However, all his success has been in the white-ball format of the game. How will his team fare in the red-ball format? The answer to that question lies in the upcoming series.
Things to watch out for
-In Tests, Zimbabwe have played 10 matches against the West Indies and haven’t won a single one of them. They have lost seven matches and the remaining three have ended in a draw. However, their highest total of 563/9d, came against West Indies in 2001.
-In Tests since 2020, West Indies' top seven batters have averaged 27.4, the worst among all teams. Even Zimbabwe have a better average (30) than them in this time frame. None of the West Indies top seven batters average 40+ after batting five-plus innings in this period.
-Ballance will be playing his first Test since July 2017. In his Test career, he averages 60+ against three teams and West Indies is one of them. In six innings, Ballance has scored 331 runs at an average of 66.2. He has one century and two half-centuries against them.
-Kyle Mayers has a unique record in home and away Tests. At home, he is a fantabulous bowler. He has a wicket every 15 runs and 39.4 balls. However, in away Tests, he has a lone wicket at an average of 103 and strike rate of 216. But, while batting he has a better average in away matches (44.4) as compared to 31.5 at home. He has played five-plus matches in both conditions.
Pitch and conditions
In Tests since 2011, Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo, has witnessed six matches and it has been in favor of the batsmen. Batting teams have averaged 36.04, and in both first and in every innings of the match, 200+ runs have been scored on an average.
Adding further, bowlers have bagged a wicket every 76.4 balls in the aforementioned time. At venues where 150+ wickets have been taken by the bowlers, this venue has been the worst among all for bowlers.
In any case, the spinners have a slight edge over the pacers when it comes to wickets and overs bowled percentage. The pacers have bagged 48.9 percent of the wickets in 48.3 percent of overs as compared to 51.1 percent by spinners in 51.7 percent of overs.
-In Tests since 2021, Kraig Brathwaite averages 82 with four dismissals in 20 innings against left-arm orthodox spinners. Whereas, against off-spinners, he averages 26 with eight dismissals in 18 innings. In the current Zimbabwe squad, there aren’t any offies to trouble him. Their lead spinners are all left-arm orthodox bowlers.
-In Tests since 2021, Nkrumah Bonner averages 16.9 against pacers (7 dismissals) when bowled on good length. However, when bowled full, he averages 92, and averages 66.5 and 40 when bowled on back of a length and short.
The hosts are hit with a big miss in the form of Sikandar Raza, their in-form player. Brad Evans, who has found success in the white-ball format might make his debut. Ballance, will also feature in the XI, making his debut for Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe probable XI: Innocent Kaia, Chamu Chibhabha, Milton Shumba, Gary Ballance, Craig Ervine, Joylord Gumbie, Wellington Masakadza, Brad Evans, Richard Ngarava, Victor Nyauchi, Donald Tiripano
Tagenarine Chanderpaul in the series against Australia, proved his grit to stay in the XI. Nkrumah Bonner who was concussed for the second time in his career, is also likely to make a comeback at number three. The toss-up could be between Shannon Gabriel, and Jomel Warrican.
West Indies probable XI: Kraig Brathwaite (c), Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Nkrumah Bonner, Jermaine Blackwood, Kyle Mayers, Roston Chase, Joshua Da Silva (wk), Jason Holder, Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel/Jomel Warrican