All-rounder Sikandar Raza, who has been cleared to play in the Bangladesh Premier League and injured fast bowler Blessing Muzarabani are conspicuous by their absence in the Chevrons’ training camp.

THE Zimbabwe national cricket team have been dealt a heavy blow by the absence of some key players for the upcoming white ball series against Ireland, but head coach Dave Houghton is not expecting his team to relent from the positive brand of cricket they have played in recent months.

The Chevrons are set to revive their rivalry with Ireland in the T20I game this Thursday at Harare Sports Club but without four of the regular players that featured at the recent ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia.

All-rounder Sikandar Raza, who has been cleared to play in the Bangladesh Premier League and injured fast bowler Blessing Muzarabani are conspicuous by their absence in the Chevrons’ training camp.

Zimbabwe are also set to begin a new era without veteran wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva, who has relocated to Australia, while Milton Shumba was rested for the upcoming T20I games.

The selectors last week named a 15-member squad led by Craig Ervine. The squad also has experienced players such as Sean Williams, Tendai Chatara, Luke Jongwe and Richard Ngarava.

“It’s a good squad,” said Houghton.

“Obviously we have parted ways with three or four guys from the T20 World Cup squad. Regis has left the country as we all know; Blessing is still injured and Milton, we are giving him a little bit of a rest.  

“Raza is away; we have released him to play in the Bangladesh Premier League so we have got opportunities for a few other guys.

“And I think one of the things that we did last year which was very good is that we used a lot of players.

“We had Craig Ervine missing for a period of time; Blessing was also injured for some time and we called people in and what this has done is that it has grown the size of our national squad by some distance. So, four people missing, new people get an opportunity.”

There have been some exciting additions to the squad with Tadiwanashe Marumani, Innocent Kaia and Victor Nyauchi coming in as cover.

But it is the absence of fan favourite Raza that is difficult to ignore. Raza has been playing his best cricket in Zimbabwe colours recently and has received three nominations in the ICC annual awards.

Raza, who is currently in high demand for franchise leagues around the globe, is the first Zimbabwean to be nominated for an ICC annual award and will be in the running for the ICC Men’s ODI Cricketer of the Year, the ICC Men’s T20I Cricketer of the Year and the prestigious Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for the ICC Men’s Cricketer of the Year.

As much as this is a dent on his team, Houghton would want to see the new players grabbing the opportunity and continuing with the legacy that he is building.  

“Our standard of our cricket won’t change. So I am really looking forward to seeing another guy who absolutely can’t wait to get on the field.

“My goal is to win 6-0, simple as that and I want us to win every game that we play. I know it’s not always that easy but that’s what our intention is,” said Houghton.

Zimbabwe are also expected to give a debut cap to batsman Gary Ballance, who recently switched allegiance from England to Zimbabwe.

The left-handed batter — who played 23 Tests and 16 one-day internationals for England between 2014 and 2017 — recently signed a two-year contract to play domestic and international cricket for the country of his birth following his release from county cricket side Yorkshire.

“Firstly, this is great news for Gary,” said Houghton. 

“He has been in quite a tough situation and his mental health wasn’t great for a number of years. He has come back here and is excited, he is enthused, he is raring to go, which is exactly what we want from a senior player.

“I just watched the last couple of days of practice with Gary and he bats quite a bit in practice with Wessly (Madhevere) and you can see the interaction between the two and that’s exactly what we want from a senior player.

“He is a very accomplished player and we hope that will rub off on some of our younger players. I am very excited about him playing and probably the most exciting thing for me is to see the smile back on Gary’s face again,” said Houghton.

A new era is beckoning for the team as they are set to get a new keeper to replace Chakabva, who has been performing the role for the last few seasons.  

Twenty-two-year-old Clive Madande, who has played one T20I and a single ODI for Zimbabwe — and kept the wicket in both instances — is likely to succeed Chakabva behind the stumps while Marumani is also an option after he found his way back into the side.  

“Clive Madande has been around for the last four months as a reserve keeper but has not really had the opportunity.

“So I think he is in line to get the first opportunity but we also have in the squad Marumani with the gloves. 

“Marumani is definitely going to play as a batsman but may have from time to time also to keep. Let’s see how that goes. 

“We will play it game by game,” said Houghton.

The T20I matches will be played on Thursday and then on Saturday and Sunday at Harare Sports Club. 

All the matches are scheduled to start at 1:00 pm.

This will be followed by the three-match ODI series between the two sides set for January 18, 21 and 23, also at Harare Sports Club.  — Herald

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *