insidesport:with MICHAEL KARIATI
THE 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup is gone for another four years, but Zimbabwe, is moving in the right direction with regards to another good dance with the global netball festival when the World Cup caravan moves to Cape Town in 2023.
Some might argue that it is too early, but the Zimbabwe Netball Association is laying the foundation and has started building a new team that is expected to take Zimbabwe not only to the 2023 World Cup finals, but to also give a good show at the gathering.
The national netball federation is well aware that the 2023 World Cup would be a completely new battle, to be played on a different field, and so, also needs new players to put up a realistic challenge for both a slot at the finals and for the title at the finals themselves.
Most if not all the players who were at the 2019 World Cup who are close to 30 or are over 30 years have been swept aside in favour of younger and energetic players who have been given the time between now and 2023 to adjust to senior netball as well as gain international experience.
Following the success in Liverpool, few in the game would have expected the netball authorities to enforce such a massive player clear out but Zimbabwean netball wants to move forward instead of living in the past, and that is the reason why the likes of Pauline Jani, Ndaizivei Madzikangava, Adelaide Muskwe, Rudo Karume, Claris Kwaramba, and Mercy Mukwadi have been given the time to concentrate more on their club careers.
In their place are young talents like Queen Sigauke, Lorraine Manjoro, Progress Moyo, Tatenda Dziva, and Linda Nkorongo, who have been brought on board to continue Zimbabwe’s fairy tale run in Liverpool, and probably reach the last four in Cape Town.
Only six members of the 2019 World Cup squad, Felistas Kwangwa, Sharon Bwanali, Sharleen Makusha, Patricia Maoladi, Ursula Ndlovu, and Joice Takaidza, still remain while the rest have been swept away with the new team building.
The new look team is at the Africa Netball Championships which took off on October 18 running up to October 23, but the netball authorities are not concerned about the results at the continental competition but building a team that will make Zimbabwe proud in future.
Team manager Ledwin Dondo has come out in the open that winning the Africa Championships will be a bonus for the girls but the idea is to give them the chance to perfect combinations for future success on the international front.
It is not very often in Zimbabwe that we see a national team being built years before the start of a major tournament and the Zimbabwe Netball Association should be applauded for taking such a progressive route.
What is even encouraging is the fact that while the top African netball teams like South Africa, Malawi, and Uganda, are at this tournament still banking on their 2019 World Cup heroes, Zimbabwe are now miles ahead in team building. By the time, their rivals start their team building for 2023, Zimbabwe would by then, have a strong team capable of challenging the best the world has to offer.
This new look Zimbabwean team will be given the chance to stay together and participate in all the coming international engagements in order to know each other’s play better as the Gems gear up for the 2023 extravaganza.
It is not surprising that the netball authorities have taken this route because experience has taught them that this is the right way to do it. The team that went to the 2019 World Cup had been together from an early age culminating in the waves they created in Liverpool.
This should be the programme that other Zimbabwe national teams like the Warriors, the Sables, and the Chevrons must follow as they have struggled all along due to the non-availability of a conveyor belt system that allows old players to be retired while the young take over the mantle.
What is saddening is that using the same players over and over again has seen the Warriors, the Sables, and the Chevrons being hit left, right, and centre. This has been because football, rugby, and cricket have been resistant to change as immediate results have been more important to them than building a team for a long lasting successful future.
That should be a thing of the past as old age players should be phased out immediately after a major tournament and fresh inspiration brought on board in preparations of next international assignments as what netball is doing or has done.
Unfortunately, the progress of the Gems will be determined by the international competitions they take part, something which will demand finances which are not readily available.
Whatever, the case is, with what is on the ground right now, the 2019 Vitality World Cup could have been a starting point for greater things to come from the Gems of Zimbabwe who are moving in the right direction.
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