From Robson Sharuko in HOBART, Australia
ZIMBABWE’S cricketers won’t be short of legends to inspire them when they step into the Blundstone Arena tomorrow, hoping to draw tears from the smiling eyes of the Irish, and keep their fading Cricket World Cup dream alive. The Ricky Ponting Stand towers above the refurbished ground on the western side, a timeless reminder of a Tasmania batting genius, whom some believe is Australia’s finest batsman since the incomparable Donald Bradman, an inspirational skipper who masterminded his country’s World Cup victories in 2003 and 2007.
When Ponting finally retired from the game, he held the record of being the second highest run scorer in Test history with 13 378 runs, carrying all the scars of a man who had served his country with distinction on the battlefields of international cricket in 17 years of distinguished service.
The David Boon Stand sits on the southern side of the stadium in remembrance of a fine cricketer from this island who played 107 Test matches for his country in a dozen years and, in the final of the 1987 World Cup, took the man-of-the-match honours after his 75 blew life out of England in a seven-run thriller of a victory.
Tomorrow, a troop of Zimbabwean cricketers will walk into the Blundstone Arena to be greeted by the names of these legends who, when it mattered most, they were there to serve their country with honour and leave memories that will last a lifetime.
It’s a day when their own country is crying out for legends, at least to keep this World Cup dream alive, and give sports fans back home something to cheer spirits battered by the chaos that has blighted the national game of football.
And, veteran Zimbabwean batsman, Hamilton Masakadza, conceded yesterday that tomorrow would be a very a big day for his team which needs to beat the giant-killers of Ireland and ensure they remain alive in a tough battle for four Group B tickets into the knock-out stages.
“Obviously, it’s a really big game for us and we have to come out with all guns blazing from the start,” Masakadza said after their net session in the afternoon.
“I think the best way for us to win that game is to be positive from ball one and make sure we stay in the game and concentrate throughout the whole game.
“I think the biggest thing for us is to make sure that we have a positive result in that game and I think that being positive (in their application) is going to be key.
“There is always pressure with every game, every international game that you play, especially playing at such a big stage as the World Cup, but I think they (Ireland) are under a little bit more pressure because they have had the better of us in the recent past and we are under a little bit less pressure.
“We just have to go out there and express ourselves and we shall come out on top.”
The Zimbabweans have won a lot of praise for the manner they have competed at this World Cup, given that not many gave them a chance to make a big impression just two months ago, following a horror tour of Bangladesh ended with whitewash defeats on both fronts – in the Tests and in the ODIs.
They competed well against South Africa, who some feel could go on and win this World Cup, and that the Proteas have since compiled successive 400-plus totals, in this tournament, has put the gallant efforts of the Zimbabweans into perspective.
They ran into a rare Gayle storm but even then impressed in their chase in a losing cause while they know, and the world knows, they should have easily beaten Pakistan on Sunday before their failure to handle pressure, when success was within touching distance, saw them collapse to an agonising defeat.
Masakadza, whose wicket on Sunday was key in that downfall when he somehow decided to take on giant seamer Mohammad Irfan, when wisdom would have called for him to simply survive the storm, says his men have good form even though the results show they have lost three of their four games at this World Cup.
“The guys are really in good form and the guys have been playing well both with bat and ball and it’s just that a few things haven’t come together for us, especially in the Pakistan game, I thought we had a good chance of winning that one as well,” said Masakadza.
“I think because the guys are playing so well, the guys have been staying in the game, that has given the guys confidence and allowed the guys to have that positive feeling and, obviously, look for a win.
“I think we have played a lot more bigger games in cricket, I think we have played a little bit better in this World Cup than they have (the Irish), and I think we should have the edge over them.”
When asked what impact the absence of injured skipper, Elton Chigumbura, will have on the team, Masakadza appeared, at first, to be surprised by the news.
“I’m not sure that the captain is out yet, that’s a decision that is yet to be made,” was his initial reply and when confirmation arrived that Chigumbura would not play tomorrow, he appeared surprised.
“That’s news to me, obviously, he is an integral part of the team, being the captain, he does contribute with both bat and ball every game that we play and, so, it will be a big loss for us to miss him.
“Obviously, there is someone waiting in the wings to take his place and, hopefully, that person can step up and fill the shoes.”
Tomorrow, in this do-or-die showdown, they might need more than one person to step to save their World Cup.