Sibanda makes a comeback in Zimbabwe squad
Vusi Sibanda has made a return to Zimbabwe's national squad and was included in the 24-man training group to play South Africa in five Twenty20 matches in June. Sibanda was not considered for Zimbabwe's January tour of New Zealand after he chose to play grade cricket in Australia instead of fulfilling domestic commitments in Zimbabwe.
Although Sibanda returned home after a five-week stint for Eastern Suburbs in Sydney before the New Zealand tour, Zimbabwe Cricket's (ZC) cricket committee decided not to select him on principle. At the time, Sibanda was told that if he renewed his commitment to ZC, he would be considered again.
Sibanda finished the 2011-12 season with his local franchise, the Mid West Rhinos, for whom he played four first-class and five limited-overs matches, including a 162 against Mountaineers. Zimbabwe do not have any international assignment through the winter, but Sibanda's path back to the national team appears to be clear as he was included in the preliminary squad for the practice matches against South Africa.
"I am very pleased that the issues are done and dusted," Alan Butcher, Zimbabwe coach, told ESPNcricinfo. "Now, Vusi can move forward and put it out of his mind."
The training squad is a strong group, including many of the faces who steered Zimbabwe to a successful Test comeback in August last year. Brendan Taylor will lead the team propped up by the experience of Hamilton Masakadza, Prosper Utseya, Ray Price, Elton Chigumbura and Tatenda Taibu. Experienced seamer Chris Mpofu also makes a comeback after missing the New Zealand series with a lower back injury.
Some of the newer faces include under-19 wicketkeeper batsman Kevin Kasuza and medium-pacer Richard Muzhange. Zimbabwe have packed the training squad with bowlers as seamers Tendai Chatara and Njabula Ncube as well as legspinner Natsai Mushangwe been given the opportunity to work with the national team.
"I am very happy with the group we've got," Butcher said. "We've decided that in T20s, we should try and look more at allrounders for the side." Chigumbura, Waller, Meth and Shingi Masakadza are the four premier allrounders in the squad.
The five matches, which will take place in Harare from June 20-24, have not been given international status because they will take place outside of the FTP. They will also not be broadcast on television, given ZC's financial crunch. South Africa are hoping to use the matches as preparation for the World T20 in September and Butcher said Zimbabwe will do the same. "It gives us a chance to work on a few things and see the make up of the side," he said. "I was quite happy with the way we played T20 cricket in New Zealand and hopefully we can build on that."
Zimbabwe lost all the matches they played on the New Zealand trip, but gave the best account of themselves in the Twenty20s. "It will be good for us to play against another top side and that's exactly what South Africa are," Butcher said. "We've got a great bunch of guys who have been working hard so we're excited about what's to come."
Zimbabwe squad: Brendan Taylor (capt), Tatenda Taibu, Elton Chigumbura, Malcolm Waller, Charles Coventry, Forster Mutizwa, Graeme Cremer, Raymond Price, Tendai Chatara, Prosper Utseya, Kyle Jarvis, Chris Mpofu, Brian Vitori, Keegan Meth, Njabulo Ncube, Kevin Kasuza, Chamu Chibhabha, , Hamilton Masakadza, Shingi Masakadza, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Richard Muzhange, Vusi Sibanda, Craig Ervine
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent