Clifton Ross continues his preview of the World Cup
With 10 wins from 51 matches and a record 37 losses, the most by any team in Cricket World Cup (CWC) history, underdogs Zimbabwe will make qualifying out of Group B their number one priority.
With history not being kind to them after winning their first CWC match against Australia back in 1983 by 13-runs, the African nation, under the guidance of former World Cup winning Coach Dav Whatmore will now seek to make their 2015 campaign a success.
From 1983 to 1996 Zimbabwe have yet to qualify out of the group stages while in 1999 and 2003 they qualified for the Super Sixes before being relegated to failures aging in the 2007 and 2011 WC.
Over the years the side has battled many elements ranging from the losses of the country’s top players as the Flower brothers Andy and Grant, Alistair Campbell, Heath Streak, Andy Blignaut and others departed the side to financial issues and the losing of their international Test status which they regained back in 2011.
All of the above played major roles in the decline of a potentially good cricketing nation.
This year, Zimbabwe will look to shake the minnow tag and put on a good show for fans, thanks to the recent good form by their players in the domestic scene, while an incredible Test series in the latter part of last year between themselves and Bangladesh brought out the best in both sides, making the underdogs well-armed heading into World Cup battle.
The minnows will open their CWC account against the in-form and dangerous South Africa side which has been in top shape coming off of their one-sided series against the West Indies.
That match will be followed by a seemingly easy encounter against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who are also keen on causing upsets in this year’s tournament.
Players to look out for
With the majority of their role players still under the age of 30, the Zimbabweans will enter this year’s tournament with an advantage of youth on their side. While their marquee players might be young, they have proven time-and-time again to be potential match-winners on their day.
Brendan Taylor- The 29-year-old former Captain with 5,000 runs under his belt is the most statistically glorified player in the side. The right-hander wicket-keeper/batsman has notched up six One Day International (ODI) centuries with an unbeaten 145 being the highest score to go along with his 31 fifties. Taylor remains the batting heart of the Zimbabwe side and will be looked upon to provide match-winning knocks and add to his two CWC half-centuries.
Elton Chigumbura- With 196 ODI caps, the hard-hitting skipper is the line of symmetry in the side. Despite not having an ODI hundred under his belt, the all-rounder possesses the ability to smash the ball to all parts of the ground with much ease, while his military medium pace has brought him 96 wickets. The skipper will be called upon to stabilize the middle/lower order if necessary.
Hamilton Masakadza- One of the country’s most successful opener, the 31-year-old will appear in his first World Cup in 13 years. The right-hander has scored 3, 961 runs with three tons and 25 fifties with a top score
of 178 not out. His stats makes him an important figure in the side and one who is well able to go after quality bowling and lay a good foundation for his team.
Chamunorwa Justice Chibhabha- A big-hitting all-rounder, Chibhabha has built a reputation of as one of the team’s limited overs specialist with his ability to hit a long ball and chip in with some decent medium-pace being vital weapons in the Zimbabwean armory. The 28-year-old last appeared in an ODI set up for his country back in 2013 against the fellow Group B opponents West Indie. However, recent form in domestic cricket has paved the way for his return to cricket on the big stage.
Sean Williams- Despite not having a ODI century, Williams has still managed to upkeep an average of 31.26 with 17 fifties and is one of the key cogs in the middle-order. At 28-years-old, the left-hand batsman is also capable of bowling some left-arm spin which has so far brought him 22 ODI wickets.
Prosper Utseya- Arguably the best spinner in the team over the recent years, besides Ray Price, the right-arm off-break bowler has collected 130 ODI scalps from his 160 matches played. His four half-centuries in the shorter format makes him a valuable member of the team and a player to watch out for during the tournament.
Apart from their overwhelming talent, the Zimbabwe cricketers have heart and determination which are tools when used correctly can be a vital weapons in the game of cricket. With just one good warm up match against New Zealand where they managed to restrict the Black Caps for 157-7 in some 30 overs, the African underdogs will surely gain much confidence in their outing and will look to upset the likes of Group B big four, India, Pakistan, South African and West Indies.