Zimbabwe shift focus back to cricket
Seven years, and what seems like a lifetime ago, Zimbabwe delivered one of the most memorable performances in a twenty-over match . They upset an Australian side stacked with superstars including Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden and Brett Lee in their first outing of the 2007 World T20. However, it's been all downhill from there.
Zimbabwe have since played five other matches in three tournaments and lost all of them. The team have their task cut out for them. They first need to progress from a preliminary round to book their spot in the main draw. It's not a position a team that regards itself as part of the top-tier of international cricket wants to be in, and you have to hear the determination in Brendan Taylor's voice to understand why.
"We have to qualify," Taylor said after the team's arrival in Chittagong. "We are not taking any team lightly. As (Hong Kong captain) Jamie Atkinson said, the gap between associates and affiliates is reducing and it's good to see world cricket developing. It can be anyone's game on the day."
From next Monday, Zimbabwe will hope it's their game. That is the only way they can prove to themselves they are still part of the big boys' club, even though the cricketing situation in their country suggests otherwise.
Zimbabwe have not played international cricket since September, when they hosted Pakistan, as they've battled financial crisis. Their series against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan were postponed and a player strike brought the domestic season to a standstill. Their only game time has been a handful of domestic matches and a warm-up game against Bangladesh A. Still, Taylor remained ecstatic - "Our preparation has been excellent and we are looking forward to the challenge."
At least Zimbabwe have the advantage of familiarity. Bangladesh is where they have played 33 ODIs, the second-most outside their country. They've only played more limited-overs cricket in India, where conditions would be similar. Many of their players, such as Hamilton Masakadza and Sean Williams, spent time in the Dhaka Premier League as well as the Bangladesh Premier League.
It is a country Zimbabwe are comfortable in, and Taylor hopes they can make that count for something. "We've been here a number of times, so we are familiar with the conditions," he said. "It still takes a bit of getting used to, especially from where we come from but we had a good start with a good win over Bangladesh A. They had some good players in there so hopefully we can take some momentum from there."
Zimbabwe's squad contains a slew of slower bowlers, including the recalled legspinner Tafadzwa Kamungozi, and they would hope they have the horses for these courses. What they need now is to prove that they can still play and win as a team. They may have to remember that match against Australia to do so.
Masakadza, Vusi Sibanda and Prosper Utseya all played in that game, while Taylor was the man who engineered the win with 60 off 45 balls. He knows from personal experience that dreams can come true. The next week will tell whether they can also come true for a Zimbabwean side battered by administrative bungling, but desperate to prove they belong.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent