Zimbabwe are one of the stronger teams in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018, not least because of their history of having played in all the last nine editions of the ICC Cricket World Cup and the fact that they are the hosts of the qualifiers.
While they had a disappointing one-day international series against Afghanistan, which came after an unsatisfactory outing in Bangladesh, Graeme Cremer, the 31-year-old Zimbabwe captain, feels his team had a decent chance of making it through to the United Kingdom for the 2019 edition of the marquee tournament.
“We really want to have a decent crack at these qualifiers. We know what’s at stake so we’re raring to go. There’s a special buzz in the change room playing at home, really looking forward to it,” says Cremer.
“There is definitely pressure, especially because we’re playing at home. A lot of strong Zimbabwean teams in the past have had to qualify and they have qualified. That’s extra pressure on us and we’ll embrace that.”
Cremer is one of Zimbabwe’s strike bowlers, and his leg-spin will be crucial to the team’s chances. With a lot of rain around in his country, the pitches for the tournament might be a bit unpredictable, but Cremer hopes his bag of tricks will be useful at some stage.
“Spin — doesn’t matter where you go in the world — plays a huge part in limited-overs cricket. It will be important and our team has been based around spin for a number of years and we’ve been successful in that. So nothing will change. We hope some of the wickets will start to turn later in the tournament, depending on the weather. I think spin will play a big part in the tournament,” he said.
Cremer plays many roles in the Zimbabwe team, contributing valuable runs often from the lower middle-order too. And the captaincy — “This will be one of the peaks if we manage to get to England” — which will be tested against some very good opponents.
“Such a huge tournament, and a historic one. The first one being held here in Zimbabwe will make it more special. It’s always going to be tough to qualify but the team is ready and I can see the excitement being back in Zimbabwe. It’ll be special for everyone and everyone will be looking to get to the final,” said Cremer.
“It’s not so much the wins as the inconsistency. One day we can be a world-beating team and the next day like we’ve never played before. That’s been the toughest thing, the real ups and downs, there’s been no medium — it’s either really good or really poor. It’s been a roller-coaster of emotions and that’s been one of the toughest things.”
If Zimbabwe do qualify, it will mean more than just appearing at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. According to Cremer, being one of the 10 top teams will get more of the top teams to play bilateral cricket with them.
“There’s a lot riding on these qualifiers. We don’t usually get to play a lot of cricket. So qualifying will mean a lot of teams will want to play us,” he says. “I can’t see us playing too much longer version cricket now. The next couple of years is a lot to do with finance for Zimbabwe cricket. If we go to England and upset a few teams there, a lot more teams will want to play us and it’ll give us the confidence to play on the world stage.”