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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Joylord a prayer answered?

Story by Raynald Ngwarati

The worst reality the Chevrons found themselves in when Hamilton Masakadza hung his bat in September 2019!

Many questions were left unanswered due to the void the legend left.

If traced, the woes began as far back as 2016, with Masakadza losing his consistency in delivery. There was a bit of resurrection when Brendan Taylor returned from County cricket in 2017, being a temporary solution before he finally hung his bat in 2021.

In theory, everything happens for the best, but practically for the Chevrons things had taken a twist for the worst. So many brilliant players were brought into the fold, but delivery on the big stage proved to be one of the toughest questions for the talented youngsters.

A few yards down the pitch, thanks to Glamorgan and Durham’s tour of Zimbabwe, a gem was discovered. It took no time for it to shine and prove its worth. The Lord delivered Joy for the provincial select sides, before being included in the Minor Chevrons’ tour of India, and that was the beginning of an era.

The answer to Zimbabwe’s top order woes? When you look at him from the distance, he does not have the most imposing of statures. With a relatively shorter height compared to others in the team, yet his capabilities are tall by a mile.

In what many would view as an unusual combination, his name carries a story Joy-lord, which Zimbabwe cricket in its prime might be reaping from, because from his inclusion it has been joy throughout for the team.

A few years in the rear, the Chevrons had a tough task in searching for openers. Many big names in domestic cricket have come and gone, talk of extremely talented youngsters like Kaitano, Dion Myers, Prince Masvaure, Kevin Kasuza and Chamunorwa Chibhabha to mention only a few. Interestingly, there were some rotations within the team with the likes of Wesley Madhevere, Craig Ervine and Regis Chakabva among others being pushed up the order to open the batting.

Despite all those desperate attempts, the questions were never answered, with top order woes being the order of the day for the Chevrons since the retirement of Masakadza.

With an experienced middle order, Zimbabwe drew most of its strength from the strong number three down to six, before relying on the bowlers to work wonders with the ball. It was a disastrous phase, with wickets falling in clusters to the extent that some analysts coined a phrase, “it is like our boys are being called to the dressing room.”

Zimbabwe Cricket hired a world-class coach in Lalchand Rajput, but even that attempt was in vain, as Zimbabwe became serial losers, to the extent of losing to minnows Hong Kong and failing to make it to the World Cup in 2018.

Back to the man, Joylord Gumbie has proven to be the missing link. With his patience, timing and temperament he has managed to occupy the crease and put pressure on the bowlers.

Since his introduction, the opening partnership has been laying the foundation for Zimbabwe’s innings and without a doubt, has provided a platform for the middle order to to take charge.

In the last Group A World Cup qualifier against the United States of America, Gumbie scored his maiden One Day International (ODI) half century and ended up on 78 runs.

Prior to the USA match, Gumbie has been pushing scoring 25(29) against Nepal, 40(55) against the Netherlands and 26(26) against the West Indies.

In just 4 innings, the 27-year-old has amassed 169 runs from 278 balls, at an average of 42.2 with a decent strike rate of 71.3. He has managed to score 17 fours and a six already in his career.

Premature as his Chevrons career may be, Gumbie has shown much promise with the gloves as well. Due to unfortunate circumstances the 27-year-old took the gloves to replace the injured 22-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman Clive Madande, and went on to take four catches, three of those coming against the United States of America.

“I am very happy, I’ve working very hard, the hard work is paying off. This is the thing I’ve been striving for,” noted Gumbie when asked about his sublime form.

According to him, it is determination, focus and hardwork which has put him in a position to play for the national team which was his ultimate goal. He managed to score a huge century during the county tour for the Northerns and a double century during the Indian Tour for the Minor Chevrons, before scoring a big ton for Zimbabwe A against the Pakistan Shaheens, and then scored another for Zimbabwe Select XI against the same opposition.

“I’ve been working very hard from the County Tour going up to the Indian Tour where I scored a double hundred. I carried the same momentum to the Pakistan Tour where I scored two hundreds, one in red ball cricket and one in white-ball,” the 27-year-old added.

The hardwork paid off for Gumbie who finally got his first cap for the Chevrons in the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup Qualifier against Nepal.

The cap proved to be some sort of a solution to the Chevrons’ who for long have been struggling with openers. In his debut Gumbie partnered captain Craig Ervine and the pair scored 45 runs for the first wicket, before putting on an 80 run partnership in the second match.

In the match against the West Indies, Gumbie and Ervine put on a 63 run opening stand, and then in the fourth qualifier Gumbie partnered Innocent Kaia to put on a 56-run first wicket partnership.

These partnerships have been solid starts which have enabled the Chevrons to go on to score big scores averaging over 300 runs across the for matches.

Without a doubt, the 27-year-old has provided the platform for the Chevrons to get big scores, which were uncharacteristic of the Chevrons prior to his introduction, probably due to the top order collapses Zimbabwe had been used to.

With all the praise and promise, only time will tell whether Joylord is the solution to Zimbabwe’s long standing woes.

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