Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
THE ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup has proven over the years to be a reliable conveyor belt for future stars and Zimbabwe coach Stephen Mangongo believes this year’s event is no different.
Zimbabwe will be part of an elite group of 16 teams that will feature in the 2018 edition of the tournament that gets underway in New Zealand tomorrow. And Mangongo, who has been working with the same group of players for the past two years in preparation for the event, is convinced the 2018 class will go places.
“We are prepared for the tournament,” he told The Herald yesterday from New Zealand where the team has been camped for the past month. Bearing in mind we must punch above our weight in order to get positive results. We are the youngest side of this tournament which was a strategic move by us. We building for a definite future.
“Most of these 15 and 16 year olds by the time they reach 19 they will be key participants in national and international cricket. These lads are going to be game changers. We have the likes of Dion Myers (15), Milton Shumba (16) and Wesley Madhevere (16).”
Over the years, Zimbabwe have enjoyed the fruits of the Under-19 side’s exposure at the biggest stage of international youth cricket. About 11 of the 15 players in the national senior team that will feature in the triangular series against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka next week have passed through the Under-19 World Cup.
The captain Graeme Cremer played twice at the 2004 and 2006 editions. It’s also the system that groomed the likes of Hamilton Masakadza, Solomon Mire, Craig Ervine, PJ Moor and Kyle Jarvis.
Ryan Murray who is set to make his ODI debut in Bangladesh was part of the 2016 class. In the past two decades top players like Prosper Utseya who is now the team’’s bowling coach, Tatenda Taibu, Sean Williams, Tinashe Panyangara, England’s Garry Balance and Colin de Grandhomme, who is now playing for New Zealand, were part of the Zimbabwe Under-19 system.
Mangongo believes the 2018 class if nurtured well will be the future of Zimbabwe cricket. Skipper Liam Roche and vice-captain Milton Shumba are expected to lead from the front in lifting the Zimbabwe flag high.
Mangongo also called up promising England-based Donald Mlambo who has played for Suffolk at all age groups since the age of 11 and was a member of the Suffolk Development squad in 2017.
The Zimbabwe squad features some players with experience of playing in the South Africa schools system. These include Alistair Frost (Hilton College, SA), Tinashe Nenhunzi (Durban High School, SA) and Taun Harrison a student on Scholarship in the Western Cape. Harrison was voted the best performer during the Cricket South Africa Under-17 Week last year.