ZIMBABWE’S cricket team left Harare yesterday for Bangladesh as they embarked on the final leg of their preparations for the ICC World Twenty20 Cup.
The team opted to travel two days before their official scheduled time so as to acclimatise to subcontinent conditions.
Zimbabwe were drafted in Group B of the qualifying stages where they will face associate nations Netherlands, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates.
Prior to the qualifier stages, Zimbabwe will shake off seven months of rust in which they were not involved in international cricket when they play two-warm up matches against Hong Kong and Afghanistan in Chittagong. Zimbabwe have been criticised for lacking the mental toughness and the ability to convert their spirited performances into winning games with memories of how they capitulated in the first round of the last World Cup fresh within the team.
It remains a source of concern in the team as they cannot forget the fact that they were booted out prematurely and watched other teams arrive to the competition as they were packing their bags and checking out from their hotel.
“It is still very fresh and painful that when we were in Sri Lanka during the last edition, the Twenty20 World Cup, we left while other teams were just arriving and that in itself was the biggest insult one could ever get during their playing career.
“Jump four years later and the guys still talk about that, they have grown a lot and I believe they have learnt their lessons. They want to go out there to win games, beat the big guys of international cricket. They have played enough cricket to achieve all that and fear or doubt is no longer an issue. What more mental strength could a coach want than for his players to get beaten, learn from it and move on?” said assistant coach Stephen Mangongo.
The teams is not short of experience with captain Brendan Taylor and such senior players like Prosper Utseya, Hamilton Masakadza and Elton Chigumbura who all have played more than 20 matches including the last World Cup available. Utseya bears the role of the main line spinner in the team and one of his deliverables will be to reduce the run rate significantly and utilise the flat turning subcontinent wickets favourable for slow bowlers.
He is well aware of the disparity between wickets in Chittagong which tend to be rough, flat and slower ideally for spinners and Dhaka where the tracks are faster and the fast balls keep low and skid a lot more.
“The wickets in Bangladesh favour slow bowlers and I would like to think that I have a very big role to play going into this World Cup and I am going to do the best that I can to help the team get into the next round.”
“We have been working with the lesser experienced players such as Tafadzwa Kamungozi and it will be key to keep boosting their confidence in a tournament of this magnitude. I have worked on a few variations with them and we will try to keep it simple so that we can execute these things under pressure,” said Utseya. The Asian trip comes against the background of the impasse between the Zimbabwe Professional Cricketers Association and Zimbabwe Cricket with the most recent incident only resolved on Monday when players agreed to sign their World Cup contracts with the ZC board. This has not affected the morale in camp and players and the team management have their gaze focused on on-field matters, chief among them being qualification past the group stages into the second round. “At this stage I can promise that we are going to go there with the first aim of getting into the second and ignore this nonsense that has been going on and try to focus on the job by doing our level best on the field. I do not like to make promises I cannot keep and I think the controllables are the things we can do on the field and giving it our level best,” said Utseya.
Brendan Taylor (captain), Hamilton Masakadza, Prosper Utseya, Elton Chigumbura, Sean Williams, Malcolm Waller, Vusi Sibanda, Sikander Raza, Brian Vitori, Tendai Chatara, Natsai M’shangwe, Shingirai Masakadza, Timycen Maruma, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, Tinashe Panyangara