BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
ZIMBABWE cricket has not been at its best both on and off the field since the national team’s failure to qualify for last year’s ICC World Cup in England and the suspension by the ICC over alleged government interference in the administration of the sport.
The country’s senior national team and their Under-19 counterparts will, however, try to put all those forlorn experiences behind them when Zimbabwe’s hectic international cricket schedule sets into motion today.
Zimbabwe’s Under-19 cricket team gets their ICC Under-19 World Cup underway in South Africa today, 24 hours before a new look Chevrons side seeks a fresh start when they take on Sri Lanka in the first of the two-match Test series at Harare Sports Club tomorrow.
Having last featured at Test level during a tour of Bangladesh in November 2018 which ended deadlocked at one-all, Zimbabwe will be aiming for a positive return to the longer format of the game during the Test series against a strong Sri Lankan side.
The series against the sixth-ranked Indian Ocean Islanders will signal a new beginning for the Chevrons, who last week included five uncapped players in their 15-man squad as they begin life without their former captain Hamilton Masakadza and opener Solomon Mire, who both retired from international cricket last year.
All eyes will also be on the new Test captain Sean Williams as the talented all-rounder seeks to strike a good balance of individually leading the team from the front while also being the on-field tactician.
The elegant left-hander’s job, however, will not be any easier after strike bowler Tendai Chatara was ruled out of the Sri Lanka series having sustained a bicep injury, while former vice-captain PJ Moor was omitted from the squad.
Williams, though, can take comfort in the knowledge that his other key players — attack-leader Kyle Jarvis and batsman Brendan Taylor — have performed well domestically, while the trio of Craig Ervine, Sikandar Raza and Regis Chakabva will also provide the much-needed experience.
While the focus tomorrow will be on the Chevrons as they seek a new beginning, the future of Zimbabwean cricket will be on show when the national Under-19 side takes on Bangladesh in their opening Group C match at the JB Marks Oval in Potchefstroom, South Africa, today.
After beating South Africa and New Zealand while challenging India in the recent Quadrangular tournament‚ the Prosper Utseya-coached Under-19 team will be quietly confident of reaching the Super League (quarter-finals) stage of the competition.
In the group phase, Zimbabwe will play against Scotland and Pakistan, respectively, on January 22 and 25 after the campaign opener against Bangladesh.
After the group matches, the top two teams of each group will qualify for the Super League, while the bottom two teams will have to play in Plate stage (quarter-finals).
The winners of Super League (quarter-finals) will advance to the semi-finals, while the winners of the Plate (quarter-finals) will qualify for the Plate semifinals.
At the 2018 Under-19 World Cup, Zimbabwe finished 11th out of 16 teams, having taken 10th spot at the 2016 tournament staged in Bangladesh.