Houghton targets WC qualification
Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE national cricket team coach Dave Houghton has only one thing in mind ahead of the home ICC World Cup qualifier which kicks off in just over 10 days’ time.
The Chevrons legend is aiming at nothing but a return to the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup finals, which will be hosted in India this year.
There are only two tickets available in the 10-team tournament and Zimbabwe have at least to be among the two finalists to entertain any hopes of breaking the eight-year hiatus.
The qualifier promises some exciting competition for the Chevrons who face two-time champions West Indies, the Netherlands, Nepal and the USA in the Group A round robin phase, which precedes the Super Six stage.
Houghton, however, is unfazed by the hurdles. Zimbabwe missed out on the finals at the previous edition held in England and Wales in 2019 after coming short at the most crucial time in a similar Qualifier which they had hosted the previous year.
“We are not even thinking along the lines of if we can get out of our group in the early stages. We are thinking only of winning the tournament and qualifying for the World Cup,” said Houghton.
“Firstly, no mention of 2018 has happened on my watch. This is a different team and I’m a different coach.
“We have a very good team, and excellent spirit, garnered over the past 12 months’ successes and the work we have all put in. We are very confident and hope we will provide good entertainment for our fans,” said Houghton.
The Zimbabwe national cricket team selectors named a strong squad for the upcoming tournament, with wicketkeeper Joylord Gumbie the only uncapped player.
Batsman Craig Ervine will lead the side which also has big guns such as Sikandar Raza, Sean Williams, Ryan Burl and Tendai Chatara who are all expected to play leading roles in the 10-team qualifying contest.
The hosts will be counting on the pace duo of Blessing Muzarabani and Richard Ngarava too, with all-rounders Burl and Wessly Madhevere bolstering the team.
Spinner Wellington Masakadza, wicketkeeper-batter Clive Madande and opening batter Innocent Kaia will also be looking to play influential roles in the campaign.
The team began their final phase of preparations this week in the Midlands.
“I’m very happy with the overall squad and even more happy to have them all fit and available,” said Houghton.
“We have taken ourselves away to the Midlands on a week’s camp, practicing at Kwekwe Sports Club. Our preparations for this World Cup qualifiers started back in April, with a month’s intense fitness program and then the six games we played against Pakistan A. This week is just the finishing touches.”
Zimbabwe last participated at the cricket World Cup finals in the 2015 edition co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
But in 2019 they missed the quadrennial event for the first time since 1983 following a disappointing loss to the UAE in a rain-interrupted Qualifier match at a packed Harare Sports Club.
This year they will face the West Indies, the Netherlands, Nepal and the USA in Group A. The Chevrons will play Nepal in the opening match of the tournament at Harare Sports Club on June 18, before entertaining the Netherlands at the same venue two days later.
On June 24, Zimbabwe and the West Indies will lock horns at Harare Sports Club in what should be the biggest Group A fixture.
Zimbabwe’s last group fixture will be against the USA at the same venue on June 26.
ZC announced yesterday that match tickets are now on sale to the public. The organisation said in a statement that fans can purchase their tickets to selected matches online at cricketworldcup.com. Tickets will also be sold at the venue gates on match-days, subject to availability.
Charges have been pegged between US$2 and US$10 to enjoy in person the four group matches involving Zimbabwe as well as all the Super Six fixtures and the final.
Spectators will be able to watch for free all the other group matches not involving the hosts.
ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 Local Organising Committee Tournament Director Hamilton Masakadza said: “Fans are the lifeblood of the game and I am excited to see tickets going on sale to the public at such accessible prices.
“With the tournament bringing together 10 teams boasting some of the world’s most gifted and talented players, no one will want to miss what is promising to be an unforgettable treat of entertaining and high-quality cricket.
“So, we are encouraging fans to get early tickets to selected matches and to also turn up in their numbers for the other fixtures where admission will be free of charge.”
For the group matches involving Zimbabwe as well as all the Super Six fixtures and the final at Harare Sports Club, tickets are going for US$2 (rest of ground), US$5 (grass embankment and TICSA grandstand) and US$10 (Centurion).
At Queens Sports Club, fans will pay US$2 (rest of ground) and US$5 (grandstand) to watch all the Super Six matches.
The Zimbabwe Cricket Supporters Union organising secretary Malvin “Luvah” Kwaramba was excited ahead of the cricket jamboree, which will bring together in Zimbabwe 10 nations from across the continents for the next one month.
“As ZCSU we have already begun preparing for the tournament. We have a number of activities including road shows, we have new regalia and new jingles that we will post on our social media platforms.
“In everything, we are working closely with ZC and the players. We all want our team to win and qualify for the World Cup and erase the bitter memories of 2018. Some of the players have pledged a few items that we will give away to the fans.
“So we would want to create a carnival atmosphere to help push our team over the line. These boys have been doing well and we are saying to all the cricket fans out there let’s come in our numbers and fill the stadium to capacity, especially in matches involving Zimbabwe.
“Now that the tickets are on sale online, the supporters should make sure they get theirs on time to avoid inconveniences at the gates,” said Kwaramba.
The 10 teams taking part in the tournament are split into two groups, with Sri Lanka, Ireland, Scotland, Oman and the United Arab Emirates making up Group B.
The top three from each group will progress to the Super Six stage where each team will play three matches against the sides they did not meet in the group stage.
All points won in the groups will be carried over to the Super Six stage, apart from those gained against the bottom two from each group.
The two finalists will progress to the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 to be held in India later in the year.
Ryan Burl, Tendai Chatara, Craig Ervine, Bradley Evans, Joylord Gumbie, Luke Jongwe, Innocent Kaia, Clive Madande, Wessly Madhevere, Tadiwanashe Marumani, Wellington Masakadza, Blessing Muzarabani, Richard Ngarava, Sikandar Raza, Sean Williams.