EDITORIAL COMMENT: Zimbabwe Cricket must deliver another class act
The ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier to be hosted in Zimbabwe is just around the corner.
The 10-team qualifying tournament is expected to take place in Harare and Bulawayo between June 18 and July 9, with only two spots available for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 in India later in the year.
The Zimbabwe national cricket team will be among the teams vying for qualification after they missed out on automatic qualification in the ICC Super League, which was used as the main qualification pathway for the 50-over competition.
This is an important event for the Chevrons who last played at the ICC 50-over Cricket World Cup in 2015. Zimbabwe missed qualification to the last event held in England and Wales in 2019 after they failed to make it from the Qualifier which they hosted.
This was the first time since 1983 that Zimbabwe did not play at the ICC Cricket World Cup. They were made to play in the qualifying tournament because of their ranking in their ICC ODI Championship after the organisers decided to reduce the number of participants at the World Cup to 10 teams.
The ICC have maintained the same number again for the 2023 edition, but with a new qualification process in place. Eight teams, including India, qualified directly from the process which involved 13 top ranked teams.
The remaining five teams, including Zimbabwe, will be joined by five Associate sides at this qualifier. This is the second time that Zimbabwe will be involved in the qualifying tournament.
But lessons from the previous qualifier which they also hosted in 2018, have shown that home advantage does not guarantee success.
The Chevrons crashed out in disappointing fashion after losing the decisive encounter to minnows United Arab Emirates at the Harare Sports Club.
This brings up the importance of being competitive, especially as the home team. The line-up for the competing teams is yet to be finalised but from the look of things it promises to be a highly contested tournament.
Former world champions Sri-Lanka entered the fray following their failure to secure direct qualification with the defeat to New Zealand during the week.
Two-time world champions West Indies are also set to play in the qualifier again as they are on the verge of also failing to qualify through the ICC World Cup Super League.
Their fate is no longer in their hands as they were praying South Africa fails to win a single match in the on-going two-match series against minnows Netherlands, which began yesterday.
The Netherlands and Ireland are the other candidates for the World Cup qualifying tournament to be held in Zimbabwe.
Scotland, Nepal and Oman have also booked their places for the tournament while the last two slots will be decided in the six-team play-off that is currently taking place in Namibia.
So there is need for thorough preparations for the Zimbabwe team. Recently they were given a reality check by the Netherlands, who almost caused an upset in a three-match series held in Harare.
It is quite unfortunate the Zimbabwe team will not have any international matches between now and the qualifying tournament, which could have helped them with the preparations.
The local competitions are also going out of season. This means Zimbabwe Cricket must have a solid plan for the Chevrons.
They need to embark in training camps, the players would need to continue playing and perfecting their skills because two months without playing competitive games ahead of such an important event is not ideal. Their form and readiness for high level competition will be negatively impacted.
Then, in terms of logistics Zimbabwe Cricket should repay the faith shown in them by the ICC by delivering a flawless tournament. Zimbabwe are not new to these events, having hosted the 2018 Qualifier as well as the T20 World Cup Qualifier last year.
Host Tournament Director Hamilton Masakadza, who played for Zimbabwe at the last edition of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier that was also staged in the country in 2018, knows the significance of delivering events of such magnitude.
It is encouraging to hear that ZC “are working round the clock to spruce up our facilities to ensure, come June, we are ready to deliver yet another unforgettable event – bigger and better than last time.”
Another positive development is that floodlights are finally being installed at Harare Sports Club. This project had stalled for years for unclear reasons.
The fans want the best and the whole world will be watching as well. Zimbabwe Cricket have to make sure they deliver a world-class event. They did it before but they have to work harder to surpass the previous events.