NAGPUR. — Zimbabwe, as Full Members of the ICC, feel they should be part of major global tournaments.
Their performances, though, do not always allow them that privilege.
Ranked 12th in ODIs, Zimbabwe have no chance of playing the 2017 Champions Trophy and perhaps not even the 2019 World Cup, which will feature only 10 teams.
They are ranked even lower in T20Is, in 13th position, which is why they have to qualify for this event.
Ahead of them are Afghanistan, Scotland and Hong Kong, and Zimbabwe will possibly have to beat two of them to make it to the main draw.
Still, the ask for Zimbabwe is tough and though they may not want to admit it, they will have to punch above their weight just to earn the right to play with the big boys.
That’s not to say Zimbabwe have not been preparing.
They have spent time in the UAE, warming up against the likes of West Indies and Ireland.
Most of their players have just come off a long run of T20 cricket in the domestic tournament at home and some have been playing in competitions like the PSL.
Zimbabwe have done their homework, now it’s about passing the test.
They already faced the first hurdle when three members of their initial squad were ruled out with injury at the training camp in the UAE.
Newly-appointed vice-captain Graeme Cremer, Neville Madziva and Luke Jongwe were all sent home while Donald Tiripano, Chamu Chibhabha and Tawanda Mupariwa were added to the squad.
Those changes will not only affect the balance of the XI, but could also impact the morale of the side.
Despite these setbacks, their focus needs to be on staying positive because too often, they have been tripped up by their own minds.
Dav Whatmore is well aware of that and his gentle, caring approach could be what Zimbabwe need to overcome years of under-performance in this format.
Zimbabwe’s T20 record is dismal.
They have won just 10 of 48 matches and only three at a World T20, two of those were in the qualifying round. If ever there was a time to change that and prove they belong, it’s now.
Little more than a month ago, Zimbabwe’s opening batsman Hamilton Masakadza was appointed captain in all three formats.
In a set-up where the leadership has often seemed a revolving door, it was the first time Masakadza had been given the job permanently, after 12 appearances as a stand-in captain.
His promotion came just a few months after he was dropped from the national squad, which may be why it took him by surprise.
“I have been waiting my turn for such a long time. I never thought it was going to come.
I thought it had evaded me,” he said at the time.
Masakadza’s calm demeanor and dedication to his craft will make him an excellent off-field leader. His form will make a him a sterling on-field captain.
He gives Zimbabwe certainty at the top of the innings and his new quick-scoring style could set them up for strong totals.
A week before the World T20, Masakadza led this year’s run charts despite playing fewer matches than his four closest competitors.
He was surpassed by Rohit Sharma, who has played 11 matches and Virat Kohli, who has played eight, after the Asia Cup but that will not take away from what seems to be a timely maturing of Masakadza.
Cremer would have been Zimbabwe’s main spinner but his injury-enforced absence means the responsibility has been given to Sean Williams.
The left-arm spinner is not as attacking as Cremer, but has proven himself as a shrewd operator, with a stifling economy.
Williams is also a nuggety middle-order batsman whose big-match temperament and love of a scrap is crucial to keeping Zimbabwe competitive.
Makhaya Ntini, South Africa’s effervescent former bowler, who was appointed Zimbabwe’s bowling coach, has already been an inspiration by example.
“(Makhaya Ntini) brings a lot of energy and a lot of goodwill and good spirits, apart from his coaching. He’s one of those guys who likes to do whatever he asks of the guys, he likes to do it with them, so he’s also leading by example quite a bit,” said Masakadza.
Perhaps it’s the placid pitches in their own country that have made Zimbabwe so susceptible to anything with a bit of bite, but they will have to be prepared to deal with plenty of turn in India.
Although the surfaces used for T20 cricket are not the raging turners of Tests, they will still challenge a team that has not travelled to India since the 2011 World Cup.
Not only will Zimbabwe have to come to terms with how to play spin when batting, but also how to use it with the ball.
At least, they can take heart from their drawn series in Bangladesh earlier this year and their reasonably good efforts in the UAE during the warm-ups. — Cricinfo.