Vitori and Cremer give Zimbabwe options
Zimbabwe's bowling options will be replenished ahead of their tour to New Zealand early next year. Left-armer Brian Vitori and legspinner Graeme Cremer will both make comebacks from injury in the country's domestic Twenty20 tournament which starts on Friday.
Vitori has recovered from a stress fracture of the shin, which kept him out of action since mid-September and will turn out for his home franchise, the Southern Rocks. Cremer has spent nine months away from the game with a serious knee injury. He played in the Mid West Rhinos Twenty20 match against Kenya on Monday and has been declared fit to compete.
"It's great to have them both back," Heath Streak, Zimbabwe's bowling coach, told ESPNcricinfo. "When you look at where we were a year ago, people said we could play well in certain spinning conditions and we have no pacers coming through, now we have quicks and genuine attacking option as well."
Vitori formed an impressive new-ball partnership with Kyle Jarvis, signalling the start of better things for Zimbabwe when the duo made their debut in the country's Test comeback against Bangladesh in August. Vitori, in particular, had a dream start to international cricket and took five wickets in that Test as well as five-fors in two ODIs after that. His ability to move the ball into the right-hander made him a tricky customer to face.
However, he soon found international cricket tougher than it first looked and on a flatter track in Bulawayo against Pakistan, Vitori was unable to replicate his success. He did not take a single wicket in the Test and played in two of the three ODIs, where he was expensive on both occasions, with a single scalp to show for his efforts, before injury stuck.
Vitori bowled a fair amount after making his debut, but Streak said the injury was not a result of overuse. "He didn't have a pre-existing condition and he is quite a strong, solid guy so we will just have to watch out for it in future." Vitori was out for six weeks and Zimbabwe Cricket took precautions to give him a proper rehabilitation process and not rush him back.
This season he has not played a match for his franchise since the injury and Streak thinks the 20-over tournament will be a good way to get him back on the field. "It will be nice if he doesn't have a major workload first up. He'll be in the field for twenty overs, unlike in first-class cricket, so he won't overstrain anything."
Cremer has also eased himself back in, with hopes high that he will be able to merit a national recall ahead of Zimbabwe's tour to New Zealand. As the country's premier legspinner, his skills were sorely missed during the three home series and Streak, like national captain Brendan Taylor, has said having a fit Cremer could complete Zimbabwe's line-up.
"It's important that he gets in some cricket before Christmas and is ready to go again if we need him," Streak said. "He has a lot of experience now and the potential to develop into an all-rounder. He is working on his batting and he is an exceptional fielder."
In Cremer's absence, Natsai M'shangwe was used in the third ODI against New Zealand where Zimbabwe chased a record 328 to win. M'shangwe showed good control and composure but the highly-rated Cremer's availability will add to the growing competition for national caps.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent