1 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Will Vitori Play Up to Top Billing?

Is Zimbabwe's speed star and Bangladesh tormentor-in-chief, Brian Vitori, only a one series wonder?

Vitori entertained and mesmerized the fans when he burst on the scene with an impressive five wickets in the one-off Test match against Bangladesh before taking 11 wickets in the first three One-Day-Internationals of his career about one and half years ago.

Since then he has done little to suggest he can live up to the blockbuster billing his first performance in national team colours had set up for him.

A single wicket in a lost ODI match against Pakistan and another in the New Zealand Napier Test, a poor run of form and fitness trouble is all that followed the brilliant entry into the international arena.

Or is it that the pressure of reproducing such a feat again has weighed heavily on the young shoulders of a 22 year-old?

Fellow speed bowler Tendai Chatara has been working hard and knocking hard on the door for recognition and his efforts have finally paid off with the inclusion in both the Test squad and ODI squads to tour the West Indies.

Vitori has fallen behind in the pecking order and it is Chris Mpofu, Chatara and Keegan Meth who line up ahead of the left arm seamer who for some months in 2011 was Zimbabwean cricket's heart throb.

Zimbabwe has been searching for a world class fast bowler since Heath Streak left and for a moment it looked like Vitori would fill in those shoes, yet the hopes have faded.

"He has not been playing domestic cricket and in the few games he has played he has struggled for form," said Makoni. "He remains one of our best bowlers and it's good that he is nearing full fitness and we hope he can regain his form so that he can be considered for future tours."

Interestingly his chance to bounce back is likely to fall in the Bangladesh tour in April where the two nations square off in two Tests, three ODIs and two T-20s.

The selectors have given the strongest assurance yet that the Masvingo-born cricketer had not been discarded.

Zimbabwe's last away tour will haunt the national team which has since hired a psychologist to sort out a mental deficiency.

Zimbabwe recorded its heaviest Test defeat when they were hammered by an innings and 301 runs after recording their lowest Test score when Brendan Taylor's men were bundled out for 51 runs against New Zealand last year. What followed that defeat were three straight defeats in the ODI series as well as a T-20 series defeat.

Thirteen months down the line the team will attempt to play better when they tour the West Indies, a place where they have threatened success in the past.

What makes the situation tougher is the form the Caribbean team has picked in the last 12 months which have seen the return of Chris Gayle to the side.

The selectors want to use the ODI series to usher in younger players that are likely to make it to the next World Cup to be organised by Australia and New Zealand.

Tino Mutombodzi and Natsai Mushangwe's arrival could spell the end for Raymond Price's ODI career while Chatara is likely to get more game time.

Chatara has picked up 13 wickets in three first class appearances this season.

Makoni said that they were making deliberate efforts to expose more young stars to the ODIs.

"The plan is to introduce the next generation of national team players into the team, but in the Tests we will continue to look at experience as is the case in this squad," Makoni said.

ODI squad

Brendan Taylor, Hamilton Masakadza, Vusi Sibanda, Tino Mawoyo, Kyle Jarvis, Tendai Chatara, Chris Mpofu, Prosper Utseya, Regis Chakabva, Malcolm Waller, Keegan Meth, Craig Ervine, Chamu Chibhabha, Tino Mutombodzi, Natsai M'shangwe

Test squad

Sean Williams, Timycen Maruma, Raymond Price and Graeme Cremer will join the Test squad while Craig Ervine, Chamu Chibhabha, Tino Mutombodzi and Natsai Mushangwe return home after the limited overs.

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