A real opportunity has presented itself for Zimbabwean cricketers to break into the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) which has eluded local talent in the last few years.
Raymond Price made the grade as a late inclusion for Mumbai Indians owing to injuries but since then, no local players have been seriously considered for the money-spinning cricket stars’ party.
Tatenda Taibu was the first Zimbabwean to play in the IPL when he represented the Kolkata Knight Riders at the first edition of the tournament.
Taibu had built a reputation in a successful career as a wicketkeeper batsman.
Captain Brendan Taylor and Hamilton Masakadza are some of the local players who have been put up for auction in the past but found no takers.
If local players have not been exposed to the right stage to make their case for the money-spinning league, this series is probably the best stage as the Indian cricket community is focusing on it.
After the first ODI, Elton Chigumbura might have raised up his hand but he will have to do more in the remaining four matches.
After coming in at number seven with Zimbabwe’s innings at 166-5 after 40,1 overs, his 34-ball 43 that featured six fours and a six helped push Zimbabwe to 228.
His bowling has improved as evidenced by his performance against Australia “A” but he was expensive against India on Wednesday as he shopped 30 runs from his five overs, albeit with a wicket.
The former Zimbabwe captain is the only local player to have attracted interest in the Caribbean Premier League after his impressive performances in the Bangladesh Premier League in January where he featured for Sylhet Royals.
But having been lined up with 17 other foreign players, Chigumbura found no takers for the first edition of the Caribbean Premier League. In Bangladesh, the aggressive all-rounder averaged 44,33 with the bat, picked up 13 wickets and hit the most number of sixes in the tournament (19).
Had he been sold at the Caribbean Premier League he would have pocketed US$100 000.
Sikandar Raza Butt played well, hitting his maiden half century but since he is only just starting his international career, he will need to do more to convince the IPL.
With contracts of all players at the IPL having expired, the franchises will be splashing at least US$10m each to sign players for next year’s edition.
Zimbabwean players will know they will need to do more than any other players from other countries with doubts about their ability still nagging.
Price only made it in 2011 as a replacement for injured Australian all-rounder Moises Henriques, after making it into the top five of the ODI bowling rankings.
Price was Zimbabwe’s leading wicket-taker at the World Cup with nine wickets at an average of 18,77 and economy rate of 3,44.
Other players such as Taylor, who on many occasions have single-handedly carried Zimbabwe through will look at this as an opportunity to convince the world that they can play cricket.