ZIMBABWE Cricket (ZC) board chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani has hailed the International Cricket Council (ICC)’s decision to award Zimbabwe the rights to host the 2019 ICC World Cup in March next year, saying it is another positive step forward for the local game, which has been on a revival.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Zimbabwe’s chances of qualifying for the 2019 edition of the global showpiece to be held in England and Wales received a massive boost after the country was given hosting rights for the qualifiers at an ICC board meeting that was held in Auckland, New Zealand last week.
“It’s something that we are proud of and we would like to thank the ICC for having faith in us. Credit should go to everyone who worked tirelessly to ensure that we were awarded the hosting rights,” Mukuhlani told Standardsport in an interview from New Zealand yesterday.
“For starters, it’s a great welcome boost to local cricket; this the first major ICC tournament of its kind to be held in Zimbabwe since we attained Test status in 1992 and it really defines the journey Zimbabwe has walked as a full member of the ICC.”
Mukuhlani, who attended the crucial board meeting together with the association’s managing director Faisal Hasnain, said the ICC’s decision to give Zimbabwe the hosting rights was another step forward in efforts being made to take the local game forward.
The ZC leadership has been pulling all the stops to resurrect the sport in the country, having successfully convinced the duo of Brendan Taylor and Kyle Jarvis to return to the international fold.
The national team also seems to be on an upward trajectory after a successful tour of Sri Lanka earlier this year under coach Heath Streak. The Chevrons won the ODI series and fell just short in the one-off Test.
“It augurs well with the efforts that we have been putting in place to take the game of cricket forward. The World Cup qualifiers will see us hosting around 34 to 58 games, which is the biggest cricket extravaganza we have had in Zimbabwe since co-hosting the 2003 Cricket World Cup,” he said.
“It also significantly boosts our chances of qualifying for the World Cup as our players will have the advantage of playing not only in front of our fans, but in our own conditions.”
Mukuhlani paid tribute to Cricket South Africa and other ICC member nations for rallying behind Zimbabwe’s bid for the qualifiers.
Bangladesh were initially scheduled to host the event, but the Asian side qualified automatically for the tournament proper by virtue of finishing in the top eight of the ICC ODI rankings on September 30, the deadline day.
Ireland, the United Arab Emirates and Scotland were also vying to have the matches played in their countries, but Zimbabwe was given the nod after ICC chairman Shashank Manohar visited the country in August.
“We would also like to thank Cricket South Africa and other nations for their support towards our bid. Cricket South Africa were fully behind us all the way, which played a key role in us getting the nod and we are really grateful for their support,” Mukuhlani said.
The ICC World Cup qualifiers will be a 10-team event, with the top two sides getting entry into the tournament proper to be held in the UK in 2019.
Hosts Zimbabwe will be joined by the other bottom-three ranked ODI nations — West Indies, Afghanistan and Ireland — as well as the top four sides from the ICC World Cricket League Championship and the top two from the ICC World Cricket League Division 2.