The Sunday Mail
When Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings,” he aptly captured Zimbabwean cricket’s current state of affairs.
There is a lot of optimism as the Chevrons begin their two-match Test Series against Sri Lanka at Harare Sports Club this morning.
Sri Lanka is an all too familiar foe.
As the new decade begins, Sean Williams is the Zimbabwean side’s new and capable leader.
However, before we get carried away by the numerous variables at play during this series, it is important to reflect on the past decade, no matter how gloomy it may appear.
Here, The Sunday Mail Sport picks the highs and lows of the past decade. Among the major issues was the ICC suspension, the country’s missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 1983, the Test comeback victory of 2011 and the Chevrons’ first test away win in 17 years.
Zimbabwe returned from Test cricket self-exile with a bang, beating Bangladesh by 130 runs in Harare.
It was an emotional afternoon for the side that had missed out on Test cricket for six years.
Brendan Taylor was the man of the match with a first innings 71 and an unbeaten 105 in the second innings.
In 2013, Zimbabwe produced another brilliant performance by beating Pakistan by 24 runs, inspired by a Tendai Chatara second innings 5/23 at Harare Sports Club.
In their latest tour in 2018, the Chevrons recorded a first away Test win in 17 years by beating Bangladesh by 151 runs.
In ODIs, Zimbabwe played 159 matches between 2010 and 2019, winning 37 of them while they were involved in tied matches against West Indies in 2016 and Scotland in 2018.
They were also two no result matches.
The biggest highlight is, arguably, the three-wicket win over Australia, inspired by an Elton Chigumbura unbeaten 52 in August 2014.
Zimbabwe recorded their first ever five-match ODI series win away from home when they beat Sri Lanka 3-2 in 2017.
Craig Ervine’s unbeaten 130 in a seven-wicket victory over New Zealand in Harare in 2015 was one of the finest performances for Zimbabwe in ODIs.
However, for a team that had a winning ratio of 23 percent over the last decade, there wasn’t much to celebrate.
The lowest point came when Zimbabwe failed to qualify for the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup after losing to UAE by three runs (Duckworth Lewis) during the qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe.
In the game’s shortest format, Zimbabwe played 67 matches, only winning 16 of them.
The Chevrons failed to make it to the main phase of the World T20 Cup in 2016 and 2014.
Neville Madziva produced a superb T20 performance when he scored 18 runs in the last over as Zimbabwe beat Bangladesh by three-wickets in 2015.
Former captain Hamilton Masakadza scored a match-winning 71 to help Zimbabwe beat Afghanistan for the first time in T20Is in what was his last international apperance, ending a 18-year career.
During the course of the past decade, Zimbabwe was the first full member nation to tour Pakistan (in 2015), since the 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka team.
The tour was warmly received by Pakistan, who also hosted Sri Lanka in all formats last year.
Off the field, ZC lost former chairman Peter Chingoka in 2019.
Chingoka had quit the ZC chairmanship in 2014 after starting his tenure as vice-president of the then Zimbabwe Cricket Union in 1990, before replacing Dave Ellman-Brown as president in 1992.
But one of Zimbabwe’s lowest moments came in July 2019 when the ICC suspended ZC over ‘government interference’. This came after the Sports and Recreation Commission had suspended the ZC board and managing director Givemore Makoni.
Boardroom issues affected the game, with players going for six months without pay.
The suspension also resulted in the senior men and women’s teams missing out on their respective World T20 qualifiers.
However, the suspension was lifted in August 2019 following an agreement between the SRC and the ZC board members after a series of meetings.
For the past decade, Zimbabwe has not toured Australia.
The last tour Down Under was in 2004.
However, that could change as Zimbabwe is expected to tour Australia for three ODIs in June.
Zimbabwe has a busy 2020, starting with two home Tests against Sri Lanka in a fortnight.
ln March, they will tour Bangladesh with one Test and five T20s.
In April, Ireland will tour Zimbabwe for a solitary Test and five T20s, before Zimbabwe go to Australia.
India are expected to tour Zimbabwe for three ODIs in August while Netherlands are also due to visit Zimbabwe for three ODIs in September.
Zimbabwe will then tour Sri Lanka for three ODIs and two T20s in October.
Will 2020 be remembered for cricket excellence?
Only time will tell.