Zimbabwe Under-19s  need new direction Zimbabwe Under-19s at the 2024 ICC Cricket World Cup

Brandon Moyo, [email protected]

ZIMBABWE Under-19s had high hopes of making an impact at the 2024 International Cricket Council (ICC) Men’s Under-19 Cricket World Cup in South Africa but unfortunately they finished at the bottom of their Super Six group with zero points.

They only managed one win out of the five matches that they played at the tournament and failed to improve their standings from the previous tournaments, finishing in 12th place.

This was the fourth consecutive World Cup under the coaching of Prosper Utseya, a former Zimbabwe captain and spinner, who was entrusted by Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) with the responsibility of nurturing the youngsters and making them a force to reckon with at youth level. However, that task seems to have been too big for the gaffer, who has been unable to produce consistent and competitive results with the team. In fact, there have been rumours that he has resigned from his position, but there has been no official communication on Utseya’s status.

ZC had expressed its commitment to invest in the development of the Under-19 team, saying in September last year that they are “willing to put in the work to ensure that the youngsters perform better in the upcoming editions and get a better standing than number 11 or 12.”

However, their actions did not match their words as they failed to provide adequate support and resources for the team to prepare and perform well at the World Cup.

Zimbabwe Under-19s at the 2024 ICC Cricket World Cup

One development coach who spoke to Saturday Chronicle on condition of anonymity said it is saddening to see the team constantly finishing in similar positions and believes a lot needs to be done to help the juniors grow, adding that development is not only needed at player level but also for coaches.

“We need to invest in local development, not just for players but for coaches as well. Once you develop coaches, you will get a product. These boys also need exposure, they mostly went to India but they need to travel to other parts of the world to experience different conditions,” he said.

He also expressed concern over the backroom staff that travelled with the team to South Africa for the World Cup saying that they lacked the expertise and experience to guide the team.

“We didn’t have a batting or bowling coach. I think we had a few backroom staff with about four guys and we expected miracles, that shouldn’t have been the case. We have a lot of talented coaches but none of them went, so who will help with other things?” he said.

He suggested that the team could have benefited from having a sports psychologist and a batting consultant or coach, who could have helped the players cope with the pressure and the challenges of playing at the World Cup.

“Maybe we are not hiring the right people for the job. It would have been nice to have an established guy like, probably Vusi Sibanda going in with them as a batting consultant or coach. A sports psychologist would have helped as well because you go into the World Cup to face some of your age mates, who probably have played in the Big Bash and that alone would affect you mentally and that is where a psychologist comes in,” he said.
Sibanda is a former Zimbabwe opener and the second-highest run-scorer for the country in ODIs, with 2 742 runs in 127 matches. He also played in the 2002 Under-19 World Cup, where he scored 348 runs in eight matches, including a century against England.

Zimbabwe Under-19s at the 2024 ICC Cricket World Cup

The Young Chevrons put up a batting performance that has been described as their worst in the past few World Cups. Panashe Taruvinga finished as Zimbabwe’s leading run scorer with just 108 runs from five innings with a high score of 59 runs not out. He was also the only Zimbabwean batter that managed to score a half century. Ronak Patel, in four innings, finished with 80 runs with a high score of 36 runs.

The team’s highest total in the tournament was 147 for two, which they scored against Namibia in their only win. They were bowled out for 71, 91 and 102 in their losses to Australia, South Africa, and England respectively. They also failed to chase down 245 against India, falling short by two wickets.

The only other batter that managed to score more than 50 runs in their disastrous campaign at the World Cup was Ryan Kamwemba who made 53 runs in five innings with a high score of 25.

The team’s bowling performance was slightly better, with Anesu Kamuriwo taking nine wickets in four matches and Newman Nyamhuri taking eight wickets in five matches. However, they could not prevent the opposition from scoring big runs, as they conceded totals of 296, 244, 186 and 237 in their losses.

The team’s fielding and fitness also left a lot to be desired as they dropped catches, missed run-outs and gave away extras. They also struggled to cope with the hot and humid conditions in South Africa as some players suffered from cramps and dehydration.

The team also suffered the highest margin defeat at the World Cup when they were hammered by a massive 225 runs by finalists, Australia in their second group game. In their first group match, the Young Chevrons lost by 39 runs (D/L Method) against Sri Lanka before going on to book their place in the Super Six courtesy of an eight wickets victory over Namibia in their last group game.

In the Super Six, the Young Chevrons played against England and South Africa, losing by 146 runs and nine wickets respectively to crash out of the tournament.

With their dismal performance, the preparations for the 2026 edition have to start now and it all lies on the hands of ZC to make sure that they put in the right structures at junior level to get the best possible results. Zimbabwe and Namibia will co-host the upcoming World Cup.

The team’s performance at the World Cup raises serious questions about the future of cricket in Zimbabwe as the Under-19 team is supposed to be the pipeline for the senior team. If the next generation is constantly struggling to get it right, then the prospects of the sport in the country look bleak.

Zimbabwe needs to change its approach to developing its young cricketers and provide them with the best possible support and opportunities to grow. They also need to find a new direction and a new voice within the youth set-up, who can inspire and motivate the players to perform better and achieve more. The  team will continue to languish at the bottom of the rankings unless there are drastic changes to its preparations.

The 2024 Under-19 World Cup comes to an end today with five-time winners India set to defend their title against Australia in Benoni. – @brandon_malvin

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