Makhaya Ntini, Zimbabwe's interim head coach during the home series against India, has slammed the approach of his batsmen after they collapsed in the second ODI to lose by eight wickets. Zimbabwe were on course for a competitive score when they were 106 for 3 after 25 overs, but lost their last six wickets for only 20 runs, and eventually conceded the series.
"We have experienced players with us. The position that we were in was the perfect position to be in with 25 overs left," Ntini told AFP. "All of a sudden we lost two wickets, within one over. For me it tells straightaway that I think we never respect a good over."
The over Nitni was referring to was legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal's fifth over. Despite Chahal conceding 25 runs in his first four overs, MS Dhoni persisted with him in seamer-friendly conditions and the legspinner was soon on a hat-trick by dismissing Sikandar Raza and Elton Chigumbura.
"It was a good over where we tried to force matters, that's where the game changed. They need to learn that if the guy is bowling very well, respect that," Ntini said. "You have got a lot of time in 50 overs. The players need to have the maturity of being able to read the game and understand the situation. It's how the Indian team batted. They read the situation, they knew that if there's a good bowler, they respect that. They waited for the bad ball. We didn't, we tried to force matters."
While Chigumbura fell lbw to a flighted and accurate delivery, Raza, who scored a scratchy 16 off 41 balls, holed out to long-on after he had struggled to rotate the strike. Zimbabwe rued their approach not only in the 26th over but also in the ones after that. No. 4 Vusi Sibanda was their best batsman on the day and was leading Zimbabwe with his 21st ODI fifty when he saw the two wickets fall. Despite that he heaved against a delivery in Chahal's next over that pitched well outside off and turned further away and top-edged it for another catch.
"It's a matter of understanding. Have a look at who is bowling very well, try to take singles, frustrate him," Ntini explained. "But we wanted to hit him for a six where we know that there was a fielder. They put a fielder there. If there's a fielder, hit it down, get the single. We didn't do that. We haven't batted very well, our bowlers are very good but there's no score that they can defend. Everyone still believes that they can do it. There's no change in that."
Sibanda also expressed his disappointment at giving his wicket away and admitted he should have taken more responsibility.
"It's obviously disappointing how I threw my wicket away," Sibanda said. "It was difficult to bat out there in the morning but no excuse. I was in and I should've taken more responsibility to take the team through and give our bowlers a decent total to defend. But unfortunately the execution just wasn't there but it's part of the game. It's easy for me to say we'd lost wickets in clusters or other guys who went in didn't do so well but I think I had the chance to take the team through and I didn't."
Even though Zimbabwe are playing at home and against a second-string India side, their batsmen have failed to provide any kind of competition so far. The hosts have been bowled out for 168 and 126 in the series with one ODI left and three T20Is to follow.
"Yes, this is our own backyard and we should actually do really well in our own backyard," Sibanda said. "There's no excuse. The wicket does a bit more in the morning and this is just the matter of us adapting to the conditions on that particular day. If we as batters don't step up to the plate and do as well as we'd like to do and put up runs on the board, it's going to be tough for bowlers and defend the total. There's no excuse, it's all a disaster. As a senior guy in the team, I shouldn't be saying that leave it to the other guys."