Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
THE Zimbabwe men’s cricket team are set to leave for Australia this evening to take part in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup where they are targeting to make it at least to the Super 12 Stage.
The Chevrons are returning to the big stage after a six-year hiatus. The 16-team tournament runs from October 16 to November 13.
Zimbabwe will be led on the trip by the legendary former national team captain, Dave Houghton, who was appointed head coach in June.
Houghton has seen massive transformation during the last four months after his team went through the qualification tournament unscathed before recording rare victories over Bangladesh and Australia in the tours that followed.
The 65-year-old told the media after the team’s final training session in Harare that he was looking forward to the continuation of the good fortunes.
Zimbabwe are set to begin their T20 World Cup campaign in the first round where they play Ireland, West Indies and Scotland in Group B, in a contest for a place in the prestigious Super 12 stage.
“I will be disappointed if we don’t get through the first round. The way we have been playing, and if we play the similar brand of cricket, I expect us to win that first qualification round with West Indies, Ireland and Scotland.
“So, I am not talking about, maybe winning one game here. And if we get into the main draw, we will see if we can cause some damage to some big names,” said Houghton.
Morale is high in the Zimbabwe team, who appear to have hit the right chords at the appropriate time after winning the qualifying tournament unbeaten and then beating Bangladesh 2-1 in a T20I series. They also claimed a famous ODI victory over Australia, in Australia, all in the last three months.
“The same message that I have been giving through to them (the players) in the last three-four months is that I want them to play with the skill that they have without any fear.
“As long as we continue to play that way, we will play winning cricket. That won’t make us unbeatable.
“You know, we will lose games from time to time, but we will win a lot more than we lose.
“So that’s what we are getting from the guys at the moment.
“They are playing with a smile on their faces, and they are using their skills.
“That’s why we are getting good results,” said Houghton.
The Zimbabwe players resumed training last week. They were given a day off yesterday to spend the time with their families before embarking on this long trip.
The players and officials are expected to regroup this afternoon before leaving for Australia, around 6pm.
The team will have their final warm-up games against Sri Lanka on Monday and then Namibia, three days later in Melbourne.
Afterwards, the Chevrons are scheduled to shift base to Horbat, Tasmania, where they get their T20 World Cup campaign underway against Ireland on October 17.
Zimbabwe will take on the West Indies two days later and round off 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.
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.
Hosts Australia will be defending the title they won at the previous edition in the UAE last year.
Zimbabwe have never made a huge mark at the tournament and will be hoping to cause some upsets in Australia.
Houghton is also looking beyond just the upcoming tournament as he wants Zimbabwe to turn back the clock to his good old playing days.
He has roped in experienced bowling assistant Steve Kirby to help lay the base for the development of quality bowlers in the country.
The Englishman was recently appointed bowling coach, joining a technical team that also has South African Lance Klusener as batting coach.
“Steve has an all-encompassing role. He is the bowling coach for the country obviously and will be with the national side as we go to this World Cup in Australia.
“I want Steve to do a bigger job in this country. He is going to live here (in Zimbabwe) and I want him to get around the provinces and start finding the next generation of fast bowlers for us to make sure that we have the supplies ready.
“So, he has got a big job to do for us. He is obviously going to the World Cup. He is an experienced player himself and his little bits of knowledge that he will pass on to the guys will be really worthwhile,” said Houghton.
ZIMBABWE SQUAD FOR ICC MEN’S T20 WORLD CUP 2022:
Craig Ervine (c), Ryan Burl, Regis Chakabva, Tendai Chatara, Bradley Evans, Luke Jongwe, Clive Madande, Wessly Madhevere, Wellington Masakadza, Tony Munyonga, Blessing Muzarabani, Richard Ngarava, Sikandar Raza, Milton Shumba, Sean Williams
Reserves: Tanaka Chivanga, Innocent Kaia, Kevin Kasuza, Tadiwanashe Marumani, Victor Nyauchi