Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
AFTER a seven-year absence from the International Cricket Council major events, the Zimbabwe national cricket team captain Craig Ervine says the Chevrons are targeting a grand return at the upcoming ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia.
Morale is high in the Zimbabwe team who appear to have hit the right chords at the appropriate time. There are lots of expectations as the Chevrons look to get their campaign underway on October 17.
The team had last featured in a major ICC World Cup event in 2016. The Chevrons were thrown out of the qualification process for the last edition of the T20 World Cup following the suspension of Zimbabwe Cricket’s membership by ICC, much to the disappointment of the domestic cricket fraternity.
But they managed to host the recent Global Qualifier and won all their games. Ervine told The Herald yesterday that they are looking forward to their T20 World Cup campaign, which is set to begin in the first round where they play Ireland, West Indies and Scotland in Group B, in a contest for the two pool tickets to the prestigious Super 12.
“Preparations are going well,” Ervine said. “There’s still three weeks to go before the first T20 game so it is a slow build up to avoid burn out too early and keeping the guys fresh is key.”
Zimbabwe are set to begin their campaign against Ireland on October 17 in Hobart, Tasmania, before taking on West Indies two days later.
The Chevrons will then complete their first-round action against Scotland on October 21.
The top two teams from Group B will join the Super 12 stage, along with the top two teams from Group A which features Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands and Namibia.
Zimbabwe are expected to travel to Australia at least a week earlier and will warm-up for the tournament with practice matches against Sri Lanka and Namibia scheduled for October 10 and 13 in Melbourne.
“I feel we belong there, it’s been a long time coming,” said Ervine.
“The experience for some guys going to their first World Cup will be incredible and a taste of what it is like to play on such a big stage.
“All the teams are going to be fighting tooth and nail to qualify for the main event, that’s a given. We have been playing some exceptional cricket of late so I feel the boys are confident that we will put on a good show and qualify.
“It’s not going to be easy, trust me. But we have to have the belief that we can beat any team on any given day.
“The boys have done extremely well to turn the tables on what had been a tough first half of the year and brought a lot more support to the ground at Harare Sports Club over the last couple months. This is just the beginning of much bigger things if we can continue with this consistency in results,” said Ervine.
Zimbabwe named their 15-member squad two weeks ago. The Chevrons received a timely boost with Tendai Chatara, Wellington Masakadza and Milton Shumba recovering from collarbone fracture, shoulder tendon and quadriceps injuries respectively to make the squad.
Fast bowler Blessing Muzarabani is also up and running while the experienced wicketkeeper/batsman Regis Chakabva, Sikandar Raza, Sean Williams, Ryan Burl, Luke Jongwe, Richard Ngarava and skipper Ervine are expected to provide the much-needed experience.
The squad is an exciting mixture with the likes of Bradley Evans, Tony Munyonga, Wessly Madhevere and Clive Madande all set for the World Cup debuts.
“I feel the balance of the squad is good. We have everyone fit which is fantastic and hopefully it stays that way throughout the rest of the year.
“The selectors have covered every department which is good. We have a lot of options available to us and also the guys that missed out on the 15 will be very hungry and pushing for their spots in the team and that’s what you want,” said Ervine.
Zimbabwe, who had gone through a run of depressing results, including a recent tour whitewash by visiting Afghanistan and an embarrassing T20I series defeat by Namibia, have been playing differently of late.
The sudden change of fortunes coincided with the arrival of former Zimbabwe captain, Dave Houghton, for his second stint as national team coach.
After winning the Qualifier unscathed in Bulawayo, they went on to record a T20I series win over Bangladesh before winning a rare ODI against Australia in Australia.
Houghton has been preaching about positive cricket and it appears his charges are responding well to the gospel.
“Dave has brought about a lot of calmness in the change room,” said Ervine.
“He obviously gets stressed like all of us who watch cricket but whenever he wants to get a message across to anyone or the team it’s always straight forward and to the point in a calm manner.
“He has also instilled a lot more belief in the boys that we are good enough to compete with the big teams through the positivity in which he conducts the team meetings and one-on-ones (with players).
“So, overall, he’s been such a positive influence in our setup and it’s been refreshing to have him with us and hopefully continue to have him with us.”
Ervine, who was sidelined by hamstring problems since early August, is now fully recovered and has been working on his game recently.
The knock ruled him out of the assignments against India and Australia. In his absence, experienced wicketkeeper/batsman Chakabva has been leading the team.
“It’s great from my side to be back in the fold and fully fit again,” he said.
“The challenge for me now is to stay fit and stay focused on leading the team to achieve some special things and create some special memories.”
The 16-team tournament runs from October 16 to November 13. The other teams that will make the line up in Australia include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and the host nation, who all begin at the Super 12 stage.
Zimbabwe, Ireland, Namibia, Scotland, United Arab Emirates, West Indies, Sri Lanka and Netherlands will start from the first round, where four teams will qualify to the Super 12.
Hosts Australia will be defending the title they won at the previous edition in the UAE last year.