SYLHET. – Half-an-hour after Regis Chakabva took the match-winning catch to complete Zimbabwe’s first away Test win in 17 years, the team’s dressing room was quiet.
A team meeting was taking place.
As soon as it ended, though, the room roared. The entire team chanted a popular tune, followed by a loud cry of “Zimbabwe”.
Coach Lalchand Rajput had earlier said, at the post-match Press conference, that it was a doubly special occasion for him, with the 151-run win over Bangladesh coming on the day of Diwali.
In the eerily quiet Sylhet stadium, the only noise was from the away dressing room. Laughter was everywhere. This was a moment to cherish.
These were the reverberating celebrations of an underdog cricket team that is unloved by the very game it plays. There’s no World Cup for Zimbabwe next year, and just the two Test matches this year.
There were strong undertones of Bangladesh taking them lightly, particularly after winning the ODI series 3-0, Mustafizur Rahman being rested being the biggest example.
The way Zimbabwe have bounced back has been stunning. Crucial runs from Sean Williams and Hamilton Masakadza and the bowling pressure built by Tendai Chatara, Sikandar Raza and Kyle Jarvis was a wonderful bouquet from Zimbabwe to Test cricket.
Raza, who took six wickets in the match, was a late addition to the Bangladesh tour only after he ended his contractual differences with Zimbabwe Cricket. The aftermath of Zimbabwe failing to qualify to the 2019 World Cup, after a heartbreaking loss to UAE in Harare back in February, bore down strongly on Raza, like many of his team-mates that day.
After the win against Bangladesh, Raza and Brandon Mavuta, who took four wickets on the fourth afternoon, were having a laugh at each other’’s expense with the debutant Wellington Masakadza looking on. Raza said beating Bangladesh in their backyard was a difficult task Zimbabwe were happy to have achieved.
“This is the first Test win in my career,” Raza told ESPNcricinfo. “I was the 12th man in the Test win over Pakistan in 2013. It is a humbling and exciting time, considering Zimbabwe last played a Test almost a year ago. We haven’’t had much cricket after that anyway. The feeling is still sinking in.
“All the physical pain that came from batting, bowling and fielding has gone away, because we won. Hopefully we can carry on winning at home and away and keep up this momentum. This is a sweeter Test win, and to do that in Bangladesh where most of the other teams haven’’t been able to do it, is quite a happy and exciting feeling to be honest.”
It was a contrasting afternoon to the one in Harare eight months ago. The Zimbabwe dressing room was a dark place that day, and the repercussions have been quite negative in the following months.
Raza felt the Test win would have a positive effect on Zimbabwe’’s overall mindset, in not just giving them confidence to do well in the next Test, but also to start the process of forgetting the World Cup disappointment.
“The nightmares of not qualifying for the World Cup are still fresh in our memories, and also in our fans,” he said.
“A bit of the pain probably will go away. But all of it won’’t go away. I know that I will be playing with that pain for the rest of my career.
“The magnitude of what we lost and how well we were playing, that pain will always be there for me. But I was picked for this tour along with other senior cricketers so that we can help Zimbabwe win more games. The pain will definitely fade away as we win more matches at home and away.”
Rajput, who joined Zimbabwe as head coach only four months ago, said the desperation to win was what stood out for him, particularly after going down in the ODI series.
“We were hungry to win,” he said. “We wanted really badly to win the match because we had been losing in previous games. If you’’re hungry for success, you’’ll do well.
“The way we batted in the first two days really showed the character of the players. From the first day the wicket was turning, it was slow, and batsmen were a little worried about whether the match would last four or five days.
“So I just said keep calm, you’’ve got to trust your defence, and basically it’’s important that you show temperament and character. And our players have really shown that.”