BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
CRAIG Ervine wants to savour every moment of his brief stint as stand-in Zimbabwe cricket team captain when he leads the national side during the one-off Test against Bangladesh in Dhaka starting on February 22.
The 34-year-old stylish left-handed middle-order batsman was a surprise pick to lead the Zimbabwe side in the absence of captain Sean Williams, who will miss the one-off Test to be with his family for the birth of his first child.
Ervine himself admitted being a little surprised to be given the honour ahead of other equally experienced players in the squad such as the team’s former captain Brendan Taylor, allrounder Sikandar Raza and seamer Donald Tiripano.
Taylor — widely regarded as one of Zimbabwe’s finest players of his generation — has had two stints as national team captain and was the favourite to take over the interim captaincy, while Raza led the side as stand-in-captain five years ago in a famous T20 win over India at Harare Sports Club.
Tiripano has also recently been spoken of as a future leader of the side having consistently put in some solid performances for the team with both bat and bowl in hand over the last couple of seasons.
Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC), however, entrusted the responsibility on Ervine’s shoulders and it’s a responsibility he says he will always cherish even though it will be for just one game.
“Firstly, I’d like to say it’s a real honour and privilege to have been given the reins to lead as captain of the team in Bangladesh. Although it will be just one game I’ll certainly cherish the moment and take it all in, not everyone gets this opportunity so I feel very blessed,” Ervine said.
“It was a slight surprise to be handed the captaincy, especially with the likes of Brendan (Taylor), Sikandar (Raza), Donald (Tiripano) etc being captains previously in their own capacities, but never the less I’m looking forward to it.”
Although Ervine is known for his quiet and reserved demeanour in general, he is vocal on the field, involving himself with field setting and often discussing strategies with other senior players while always willing to impart his knowledge to the younger players.
“I am always helping the young guys as I know how difficult it is to learn your game and to always keep it simple and not get too caught up trying too many things. I want to be a person that is approachable and they respect my advice,’ he said.
Ervine, who has been in and around the national team setup for almost a decade featuring in 17 Test matches, 93 ODIs and 22 T20Is for Zimbabwe since making his ODI debut against India in May 2010, said he was excited about the direction the team appears to be heading.
The Chevrons head to Bangladesh on the back of a solid performance against Sri Lanka where they lost 1-0 in the two match series played in Harare last month.
Despite a 14-month absence from Test cricket in the lead up to the two-match series against Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe pushed their more illustrious opponents right throughout the five days of both Test matches.
Zimbabwe lost the first match by 10 wickets in the final session on the fifth day in a match they could have drawn and for long periods in the second Test it looked like they might secure their first-ever Test win over Sri Lanka but their hopes were scuppered by rain delays and bad light on the penultimate day.
“I think we are in a good space at the moment, with a mix of younger players in the squad, which allows them to learn and grow,” Ervine revealed.
“The recent performance was refreshing, it was exciting to see our openers fight hard and create platforms for the rest of the order. I felt the team performed well and not just a couple of individuals.”
He believes most of the players’ familiarity with the conditions in Bangladesh will stand them in good stead during the tour, in which they will also play three ODIs and two T20Is after the one off Test.
“I think we are very familiar with their conditions as we have toured there a considerable amount in comparison to other countries so it should hold us in good stead. We have also been successful in recent times and with the last series against Sri Lanka we will definitely take a lot of confidence into the tests and other formats from that. We need to adapt very quickly from our wickets to theirs and that shouldn’t be a probable for us,” he said.
The Zimbabwe Test squad, which left the country on Friday was expected to arrive in Dhaka yesterday for the tour that kicks off with a two-day practice game against the Bangladesh Cricket Board XI which leads into the first Test.
After the Test match, the Chevrons and the Tigers will then play three ODIs on March 1, 3 and 6 for which Williams is expected to be available.
The tour ends with Zimbabwe and Bangladesh meeting in two T20Is on March 9 and 11 in Dhaka.
Zimbabwe Test squad:
Sikandar Raza, Regis Chakabva (wk), Craig Ervine (captain), Kevin Kasuza, Timycen Maruma, Prince Masvaure, Christopher Mpofu, Brian Mudzinganyama, Carl Mumba, Tinotenda Mutombodzi, Ainsley Ndlovu, Victor Nyauchi, Brendan Taylor, Donald Tiripano, Charlton Tshuma