Prosper Utseya’s absence felt as the Gayle-storm hits Zimbabwe

By Perry Munzwembiri

It was always going to be about whether Chris Gayle showed up for the party. And show up he did, in destructive form! Hurricane Gayle bludgeoned Zimbabwe’s bowling attack at the Manuka Oval on Tuesday on his way to a record double century.  The West Indies have become a pretty ordinary side lately – Chris Gayle aside of course.  He is that ‘X-factor’ for the Caribbean side.

If Chris Gayle is the point of difference for the West Indies, then Prosper Utseya is possibly to Zimbabwe’s cricket team what Gayle is to the Indies. Only that, Zimbabwe’s secret sniper wasn’t in the trenches. Faced with a lethal onslaught from Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels, Zimbabwe could not go into full ‘defcon mode’ – as Zimbabwe’s bowlers leaked runs in epic fashion.  The result was a mammoth 372 run batting innings for the Indies.

Prosper is any captain’s dream bowler (admittedly, that assertion is to be taken with a pinch of salt). But judging from his bowling statistics, Prosper Utseya can also stake his claim against some of the best bowlers in international cricket with an above par economy rate.  Only that his Zimbabwe did not have the privilege of utilising his potent off spin. Prosper’s bowling action was adjudged to be illegal prior to the world cup, and he thus could not bowl his off spinners for Zimbabwe.

His unique ability to tie up one end, virtually clogging the run supply whilst the other bowlers attack the opposition from the other end was sorely missed. And Zimbabwe went on to face the Caribbean islanders deprived of Prosper’s services.

Could Prosper Utseya’s presence in Canberra have been the vital ingredient in Zimbabwe’s quest to restrict the West Indies?

The Zimbabwe bowling attack led by Tinashe Panyangara and Tendai Chatara failed to adequately make inroads in the West Indies attack after having lost the toss and thrown in to bowl.

Granted, the conditions were more suited to batting. “I always try and steer towards the batsmen friendly, one day pitch,” says Brad Van Dam, curator of the Manuka Oval. In spite of having received a facelift which entailed making a new pitch from scratch, there would have always been something in it for the bowlers, as there would be a bit of bounce and naturally less wear and tear on the ball.  However Zimbabwe failed to capitalise on this, with Sikandar Raza arguably being the peak of the bowlers going for 45 runs in his allotted 10 overs,  and even having a maiden over albeit a without a wicket.

As Zimbabwe’s bowling attack introspects going into the final round of group matches, what is clear is how much Prosper Utseya’s off spin was missed against the West Indies. Going forward, who will step up and fill the gap he has left in the 1 day side? Or will the pace bowling attack show more venom?  If Zimbabwe is entertaining any hopes of progressing through the group stages, they better do.

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