The Zimbabwe cricket team will be looking to momentarily sweep in-house problems under the carpet and pull off an unlikely victory over top-ranked side Pakistan in a T20 tri-series opener set for Harare Sports Club this morning.
By Munyaradzi Madzokere
Australia, the third best team in the format of the game, complete the three teams battling for a place in next Sunday’s final.
Brendan Taylor, Graeme Cremer, Sean Williams and Craig Ervine have opted out of the competition as a result of a standoff with the association over non-payment of outstanding salaries and match fees rendering Zimbabwe a vastly weakened side.
Experienced player Hamilton Masakadza has been selected to captain the team.
“I am very excited to be back at the helm and leading the team again. Of course, there has been a lot of stuff going on around, but the key is to just focus on the job at hand and go out and do the job for the country,” Masakadza told journalists at a press conference yesterday.
“There is a lot of excitement in the camp with a few guys coming back and a few new guys making their first strides. I think it’s very upbeat in the camp. It’s always important to start well because it determines how you get into the series. We are looking to hit the ground running tomorrow and hopefully get a victory and take strides towards playing in the final,” he added.
The 34-year-old batsman is not new to the role, having led the senior men’s national side at the 2016 ICC World Twenty20 in India.
Boasting 52 T20I, 193 one-day international (ODI) and 36 Test appearances, at number 10 in the world Masakadza is currently Zimbabwe’s highest-ranked batsman in the shortest format of the game.
This tri-series also sees the return of Elton Chigumbura and Chamu Chibhabha to the national team fold while youngsters Brendon Mavuta and Ryan Murray have been included in the team.
Pakistan, who shot to the top of the T20 rankings following a string of positive results this year, are not under-estimating a weakened Zimbabwe side.
“We are not thinking about rankings. We are thinking about playing good cricket, playing positive cricket and win the tri-series. The first game is very important so we will try our best to play good cricket and hopefully we will win the match. We are not taking Zimbabwe lightly, we are playing a full-strength team and we will try our best to win,” captain Sarfraz Ahmed said.
Zimbabwe are the lowest-ranked team in the tri-series at number 12.
Tomorrow, Australia take on Pakistan, while Zimbabwe’s next match is against the Aussies on Tuesday.