Ervine to lead Chevrons clash against Windies CALM BEFORE THE STORM . . . Zimbabwe national cricket team players (from left to right) Brandon Mavuta, Innocent Kaia and Tafadzwa Tsiga pose for a photograph soon after their practice session at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo on Tuesday ahead of the upcoming Test series against the West Indies. — Photo: Zimbabwe Cricket.

Eddie Chikamhi-Senior Sports Reporter

ZIMBABWE have named seven uncapped players in their Test cricket squad following the absence of some key members of the team for the two-match series against the West Indies in Bulawayo.

The Chevrons are set to miss regular captain Sean Williams due to injury and the services of all-rounders Sikandar Raza and Ryan Burl, pacemen Tendai Chatara and Blessing Muzarabani.

Experienced wicketkeeper/batsman Regis Chakabva, who has since relocated to Australia, is also not part of the squad.

With options curtailed, the team is likely to spot a different outlook when they host the Caribbean side in the longest format of the game, starting this Saturday at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo.

The national team selectors included seven uncapped players in wicketkeeper-batters Tafadzwa Tsiga and Joylord Gumbie, top order batsmen Kudzai Maunze, Tanunurwa Makoni and Innocent Kaia; and seamers Bradley Evans and Tanaka Chivanga.

The uncapped players make almost half the 16-man team.

Limited overs skipper Craig Ervine was handed the responsibility to lead the side in the absence of regular captain Williams, who is recovering from a fractured finger.

Williams was injured during the recent T20I matches against Ireland and eventually missed the rest of the ODI series last month. Chatara played a part in the series but has been struggling with a knee injury since.

Fast bowler Muzarabani has been out for longer and is still in the sidelines, recovering from quadriceps injury.

All-rounders Burl and Raza were granted permission by Zimbabwe Cricket to skip the series after successfully applying for No Objection Certificates. The pair is currently involved with franchise cricket commitments overseas.  

Burl is currently starring in the Bangladesh Premier League with Sylhet Strikers while Raza is playing in the inaugural International League T20 with Dubai Capitals in the United Arab Emirates.

“The home side will be without all-rounders Sikandar Raza and Ryan Burl who are fulfilling franchise commitments abroad, while pacemen Tendai Chatara and Blessing Muzarabani are recuperating from thigh injuries,” said ZC in a statement yesterday.

“Their absence has opened up opportunities in the Zimbabwe squad for players who have been enjoying good form in the domestic first-class competition, the Logan Cup, among them the uncapped quartet of wicketkeeper-batters Tafadzwa Tsiga and Joylord Gumbie as well as opening batters Kudzai Maunze and Tanunurwa Makoni.

“The trio of top-order batter Innocent Kaia and seamers Bradley Evans and Tanaka Chivanga is also in line to make their Test debuts after they were picked to face the West Indies.”

On a positive note, experienced former England international Gary Ballance will be on the line for his debut appearance for Zimbabwe.

Ballance was included in the squad after he recently switched allegiance from representing England and committed to playing for his country of birth.

The left-handed batter had previously featured in 23 Tests for England, scoring 1 498 runs with four centuries and seven fifties at an average of 37.45.

Ballance scored one of his Test tons against West Indies in 2015 and two half tons in the three matches that he has played against the Caribbean opponents.

The left-handed batsman made his international debut for Zimbabwe in a T20 match against Ireland last month.

Zimbabwe Cricket also recalled Donald Tiripano and Chamunorwa Chibhabha to add some experience to the side, while Victor Nyauchi, Wellington Masakadza, Richard Ngarava, Brandon Mavuta and Milton Shumba will be looking to make an impression in the longest format of the game.

Chibhabha, just like Ballance, is set to return to Test cricket format after five years. He had last featured for Zimbabwe in the red ball game in 2017 against South Africa.

But a couple of fine knocks in the domestic leagues have brought him back into the picture.  

Mavuta has also benefitted from his newly found form and would be in line for selection again for this format ever since he made his only two Test appearances against Bangladesh back in 2018.

The first Test is scheduled for February 4-8, with the second pencilled in for February 12-16. The players that have been selected have been challenged to seize the opportunities.

But Zimbabwe, depleted as they are, should not expect it easy against the West Indies.

In total, 10 Test matches have been played between them, with the Windies winning seven while three ended in draws.  

The last Test series between Zimbabwe and the West Indies was also played at Queens Sports Club in October 2017. 

The West Indies clinched the two-match series, having won the first game by 117 runs while the second match ended in a draw.

The Chevrons normally do not get opportunities to play Test cricket and how they are going to fare in the upcoming series will be key in head coach Dave Houghton’s revolution, which began on a strong footing last year with excellent performances in the limited overs games.

The Chevrons’ last Test match was way back in July 2021 against Bangladesh in Harare, and they will be back on the park for the first time in almost two years.

Zimbabwe Test Squad:

Gary Ballance, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Tanaka Chivanga, Craig Ervine (captain), Bradley Evans, Joylord Gumbie, Innocent Kaia, Tanunurwa Makoni, Wellington Masakadza, Kudzai Maunze, Brandon Mavuta, Richard Ngarava, Victor Nyauchi, Milton Shumba, Donald Tiripano, Tafadzwa Tsiga.

 West Indies Test Squad:

Kraigg Brathwaite (C), Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Roston Chase, Joshua Da Silva, Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach, Jason Holder, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Raymon Reifer, Devon Thomas, Jomel Warrican, Gudakesh Motie

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