ICC Cricket World Cup Preview – Zimbabwe
Joseph Ryan previews Zimbabwe, who will need to pull out some massive efforts to make an impact at this World Cup.
Captain: Elton Chigumbura
ODI Ranking: 11 (yep, they’re even behind Ireland!)
Best result at World Cup: Super Sixes (1999 and 2003)
2007 World Cup: First round
Squad: E.Chigumbura, R.Chakabva, C.Coventry, G.Cremer, C.Ervine, S.Ervine (Replaced by T.Mawoyo, who was in turn replaced by T.Duffin) G.Lamb, S. Masakadza, C.Mpofu, R.Price, E.Rainsford, T.Taibu, B.Taylor, P.Utseya, S.Williams
Likely XI: Coventry, Taylor, C. Ervine, Chigumbura, Lamb, Taibu (wk), Cremer, S. Masakadza, Price, Utseya, Mpofu
Last five games: L, W, L, NR, L.
It seems like so long ago. In 1999, Zimbabwe defeated both India, and an already qualified South African team in the last group match, to win through to the super sixes and send the tournament hosts, England, packing from the tournament. In that round, they gave an honourable performance, including a Neil Johnson 100 at Lords against Australia. Four years later, assisted by a forfeit, they again made the super sixes, but this tournament commenced the downfall (from an already low place) of Zimbabwean cricket, as the protests of Henry Olonga and Andy Flower made worldwide headlines, and the subsequent exit of players decimated the team to a point where Test status was “voluntarily suspended”.
The former players responsible for that period are back in coaching roles (Streak, G.Flower), and the concentration of resources into limited overs cricket (including some tours to this very region) provides hope that this somewhat more settled squad (even if the batting line up continues to chop and change) can put in a performance more worthy of a “Test” nation.
Sean Ervine pulled out of this tournament to play with Hampshire in the English County game. It was a decision which enables him to maintain British citizenship and avoid being classed as an overseas player, and reflects a dilemma facing many players in the current cricket climate where national duty is not as important as the next paycheque. Tino Mawoyo was approved as his replacement, but he has since suffered an injury (abdominal muscle tear) and will be replaced by Terry Duffin.
Former joint ODI record holder of the highest score (194* in an ODI v Bangladesh) Charles Coventry should step up to the opening spot as a result, having been serviceable in that role in the warm up match against South Africa. If he could repeat that sort of innings, he’d be the player to watch.
However, the player to watch must be Brendan Taylor. While there’s plenty of talent in the team, he’s the only one who’s really converted it to success in 2010, with three fifties and two hundreds – including a career-best 145 not out against South Africa in a losing cause. He topped Zimbabwe’s ODI run-scoring for 2010 and must surely be the key wicket opposing teams will be looking to capture early.
The Zimbabwean fast bowling ranks are, well, weak. Chris Mpofu will be responsible for holding up that part of the team, although Shingarai Masakadza has been improving. However, Zimbabwe have a surprising level of depth in their spinning ranks, with Ray Price, Prosper Utseya and Graeme Cremer competing for spots, and it will be the spinners expected to take the wickets. Their recent propensity to tour Asia (part of a political reward perhaps?) sees them knowledgeable about the conditions they will face, and they can be expected to use their spin strength to their advantage on spin-friendly wickets.
Prior to this tournament, it could easily have been suggested that Elton Chigumbura would almost certainly have been axed if not for the “(c)” next to his name of the team sheet. However, his bowling in the warm up game in Dubai against the Netherlands was instrumental in obtaining a win. Of course, he’s an all rounder and captain, and will therefore be expected to lead in all forms of play, much as he did when leading Zimbabwe with the bat to their T20 World cup warm up win over Australia in 2010.
Verdict = 5th in Group A
We all know the format of this World Cup has been designed to rectify the television consequences of both India and Pakistan missing out on the group stage at the last World Cup. The effect on the Associate nations is disastrous in that a once-off win over a test rival is no longer loaded with the chance to step up to a finals berth. However, that does not rule out the possibility.
Zimbabwe open their tournament with a match against 3 time reigning champions Australia, and would personally fancy their chances of causing an upset like their shock 1983 World Cup win against the same nation. As mentioned before, they did beat Australia recently in a T20 world cup warm-up game. However, we are talking about a side which has won eight out of 46 world cup matches. There are much better ways to waste your money, gamblers!
They will be hoping to beat Canada and Kenya, and appear to have the talent to do so, then steal a win against the poorly performing NZ team, or the always hard to predict Pakistanis. It’s unlikely, but they will give it everything they have as they know it’s essential for the rebuilding of their country’s cricket for a strong performance. The side is now made up of a fairly youthful group (but, when compared to Australia’s preferred team, this side seems do young that it’s a junior development squad). Zimbabwe and their fans will be hoping that this tournament can not only lay the foundations for a return to test level, but more importantly, competitiveness when they do return.
21 Feb v Australia (Ahmedabad)
28 Feb v Canada (Nagpur)
4 Mar v NZ (Ahmedabad)
10 Mar v Sri Lanka (Pallekele)
14 Mar v Pakistan (Pallekele)
20 Mar v Kenya (Kolkata)
Considers himself qualified to write this article on the basis that he’s seen Zimbabwe win a World Cup match, live! (versus England, 1992, Lavington Sports Club Oval, Albury)