Utseya calls for junior cricket revamp

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Zimbabwe's bowler Prosper Utseya holds up the match ball after his five-wicket haul which included a hat-trick during the one-day international triangular series cricket match between Zimbabwe and South Africa at the Harare Sports Club on August 29, 2014. AFP PHOTO/JEKESAI NJIKIZANA (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)

By Paul Vutete
Zimbabwe national Under-19 cricket team coach Prosper Utseya has said more needs to be done in the development structures of the game after he saw his side finish 12th at the Under-19 World Cup in the West Indies.

Zimbabwe lost to the host by eight wickets in the 11th and 12th place play-off after they had been defeated by Ireland in the Plate semi-finals.

At the tournament, Zimbabwe managed just two wins, against Papua New Guinea in the group stages and Scotland in the Plate quarter-finals.

They lost to Pakistan and Afghanistan in the group stages.

Utseya noted that their preparations ahead of the tournament were not adequate, particularly due to the effects of COVID-19, where schools had not played cricket for two years.

“Not the position (12th) we would have liked to finish on, what it means is that everyone involved in the development pathway of players from schools to ZC [Zimbabwe Cricket] as an organisation will have to work twice as hard and remain positive,” the former national team captain told NewsDay Sport.

“It was a highly competitive tournament, playing standards are going up as the game is evolving.”

On a positive note, he said he was happy that talent-wise, local players were not far off from those that they competed against at the global showcase.

“On a positive note, we are not far off from the teams that went on to progress, considering that no schools cricket played the last two years with minimum practice sessions and matches leading up to the tournament. With better preparation exposing our players to a minimum of 30 international youth experience in the two-year World Cup cycle, it would go a long way. Our schools’ development structures also need to be revamped as the game is evolving,” Utseya said.

He said the team had its moments in some of the games, but failed to cross the line.

“It was a rather mixed bag of performance. We started well and won here and there, but failed to absorb pressure when it mattered the most  to win key moments and staying on top when we were dominating. As a result, we did not cross the line to our satisfaction,” Utseya said.

“There were some moments of individuals’ brilliance throughout the tournament with both bat and ball, which was pleasing. Bennett (Brian and David) brothers were consistently among the runs throughout. Our spinners were good throughout. Alex Falao took a fifer vs Pakistan and we had one 100 from the captain (Emmanuel Bawa).”

He is hoping that they will start working towards the next World Cup in two years’ time.

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