Mangongo excited by promising youngsters
Zimbabwe XI coach Stephen Mangongo identified the crop of youngsters pushing for national selection as the most exciting part of the squad's tours to Netherlands and Canada, which include both limited-overs and four-day Intercontinental Cup engagements.
Three players from the Zimbabwe squad that went to the ICC Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand earlier this year - offspinner Natsai Mushangwe, seamer Tendai Chatara and allrounder Nathan Waller - have been drafted into the squad.
"It is good for Zimbabwe cricket that we are identifying a young crop that we can nurture," said Mangongo. "To me, that is a key element for cricket to survive. The youngsters in our current squad are very exciting.
"Tendai Chatara has shown a glimpse of genuine pace, Nathan Waller has a good physique and all the attributes of a fast bowler and Mushangwe is a brilliant turner of the ball - his domestic statistics speak for themselves."
Mangongo suggested that the squad had struck a good balance, and identified captain Vusi Sibanda as a stable presence at the top of the order. "[He's] been around for a while. He has played for the senior team and is a player who knows his cricket. He has been the top runner in the past year in franchise cricket. He has over seven centuries and that in itself is a sign that he has what it takes. The team is well-balanced and we are spoilt for choice."
Mangongo, who is also assistant coach of the senior national side, lauded the squad's coaching unit. Former national player Andy Waller fills the double role of assistant coach and team manager for the tour and Heath Streak will be accompanying the squad as bowling coach - the same job he performs with the national side.
"I am definitely one lucky man to be surrounded by this kind of technical staff," he said. "Bundu [Waller] is an astute coach. He has played the game at the highest level and is passionate about the team. Indeed, he is a superman and I am looking forward to working with him on this tour."
At the squad's final practice session in Harare, Streak identified the trips to Netherlands and Canada as an opportunity for fringe players to advance their stakes in the competition for national selection, and hinted at the importance of such tours in building the depth of Zimbabwe's talent.
"Zimbabwe XI players are supposed to aim for places in the national team," he said. "They can only do that through performances that give top players more pressure. In doing so we create more options and the depth that we need as we approach our return to playing Test cricket."
Zimbabwe XI take on Netherlands in a one-day match in Amstelveen on Friday and then a four-day match starting on Sunday. They will then leave for Canada where their first engagement is another Intercontinental Cup match which begins on August 2 in Toronto. Zimbabwe sits in fourth position with 23 points in the tournament after winning one game and drawing another.
Zimbabwe XI squad: Vusi Sibanda (capt), Forster Mutizwa, Sean Williams, Craig Ervine, Charles Coventry, Chamu Chibhabha, Regis Chakabva, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Tendai Chatara, Ed Rainsford, Keith Dabengwa, Shingi Masakadza, Natsai Mushangwe, Nathan Waller, Timycen Maruma