AFTER the disaster that followed their failure to qualify for the World Cup and led to the acrimonious sacking of coach Heath Streak, the Zimbabwe cricket team needs to start putting together broken pieces and get their ship moving in the right direction.
That journey begins with their limited overs series against South Africa in Kimberly tomorrow.
This, of course, is not going to be an easy assignment for the Chevrons, who play three One Day Internationals and three Twenty20 International games against the World Cup-bound Proteas.
Records show that Zimbabwe simply needs to summon their best faculties in order to upset their more experienced hosts. And immediately after the tour of South Africa, the team will set off to Bangladesh for a month of more testing cricket.
This is all coming in the backdrop of a crazy period of the high drama that painted the game in negative light in the last few months.
In fact, it has not been a good year for cricket in the country particularly from the time the national team fluffed a good opportunity to qualify for the 2019 ICC World Cup at a screening tournament held in Harare and Bulawayo in March.
The débâcle opened the doors for problem after problem, from the controversial sacking of Streak, the ensuing court cases, to the rebellion by senior players over outstanding salaries and bonuses, which resulted in the catastrophic performances by the team when they hosted Australia and Pakistan in the recent two series.
To their credit, Zimbabwe Cricket authorities have moved to resolve most of the sticking disputes and turn on a new leaf.
It seems time has moved on, and so should everyone associated with the country’s second biggest sporting discipline after football.
The Chevrons really need that for the sake of the future of cricket in this country.
Zimbabwe have a new coach, Indian Lalchand Rajput, who comes in with a reputation of his enormous successes with the ever-improving Afghanistan national team.
Most importantly, the bickering between ZC and senior players over non-payment of salaries and allowances has since been resolved.
The team’s key members who include Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams and Craig Ervine are back in the fold and itching to lift the banner of Zimbabwe high.
Only former captain Graeme Cremer has been sidelined by injury.
There is also encouraging news with the return of all-rounder Sikandar Raza for the tour of Bangladesh. ZC should be applauded for the way they expedited the resolution of his contractual issue.
However, Raza will not be part of the team in South Africa as he only joins the squad on their way to Bangladesh, where they play three ODIs and two Tests.
The next two months will be pregnant with the much-needed game time for the Chevrons.
Unlike most of Test nations, Zimbabwe does not often get such opportunities to play international cricket.
The more they play against quality opposition, the better their chances of improving. But according to the Future Tours Programme, their next stop after completing the tour of Bangladesh in November, will only be in March next year away to India.
It is against this background that the Chevrons need to put this rare opportunity to good use. The ODI series against South Africa, which begins in Kimberly tomorrow, is likely to set the tone for the rest of the series which will run until October 6.
Zimbabwe and South Africa do not play too often despite their close proximity and the Proteas have dominated the meetings between the two nations.
The last time Zimbabwe toured their neighbours last year, they suffered a humiliation when they lost the one-off inaugural four-day Test inside two days.
But, unlike Tests, limited overs games are more likely to be unpredictable.
The players chosen to represent the nation on this tour must wear the national badge with pride and always remember the 16 million-plus people they represent back home.
While the storm may not be over yet at Zimbabwe Cricket, the situation demands that every stakeholder put the past behind for the good of the game, for the stability of the ship and the image of the country especially in the eyes of the International Cricket Council.