Masakadza dropped from World Cup squad
While there is yet to be any official word from Zimbabwe Cricket, it would appear that there might be a few surprises in Zimbabwe's squad for the World Cup. Opening batsman Hamilton Masakadza has paid a heavy price for his poor form in 2010 and is apparently not included in a preliminary 20-man squad, while Sean Ervine may well be in line for an international comeback after his name was included in press reports about the potential team.
Masakadza, 27, is one of the country's most experienced batsmen and has been a dominant force in domestic cricket for the last few years. After a prolific run in 2009, when he scored 1,087 runs in ODIs - the fourth best returns in world cricket that year - Masakadza's form slumped alarmingly in 2010 and he averaged just 19.00 in ODIs for the national side.
After making his debut as a 17-year-old in 2001, Masakadza missed out on selection for the tournament in both 2003 and 2007 - the first time because he was at university in South Africa and the second because of a dip in form and a perceived lack of fluency in limited-overs cricket. He struggled in Zimbabwe's three most recent series, against Ireland, South Africa and Bangladesh, managing just 52 runs in seven innings.
Uncertainty still reigns over Ervine's inclusion. His younger brother, Craig, is a certainty after a productive first year with the national side, but the older Ervine is still under contract with Hampshire as a local player until the end of the 2011 season. He would have to revert to overseas status if he wanted to resume his international career with Zimbabwe, but Hampshire already have legspinner Imran Tahir on their books in that role.
"I'll speak with Sean and get to the bottom of this but I expect him to be with us next year," Hampshire manager Giles White told BBC Solent in December. "We've offered him a new deal and he's said he'd like to take that up. I will be interested to find out more about it because he is under contract with Hampshire. I will try to contact Sean but it's difficult as he's on a farm in Zimbabwe, but we will get him on the phone and sort things out so we can move things forward and hopefully get some clarity."
Ervine played the last of 42 ODIs for Zimbabwe against Bangladesh at Harare Sports Club in March 2004 before becoming embroiled in the 'rebel' crisis and falling out with the board. He has since forged a successful career in County cricket with Hampshire, and remains part of their squad for the Caribbean Twenty20 tournament, which starts on Monday.
Zimbabwe's poor batting was the biggest let-down of their recent Bangladesh tour, and Ervine's form and experience would certainly be a valuable asset to the national side. Zimbabwe's batsmen will also be undergoing an intensive training programme ahead of the World Cup, with enhanced solidity at the beginning of the innings and an ability to play spin in the middle overs being the main objectives.
"We have come up with an intensive training structure so that we can try and help the guys improve their technique going into the World Cup," assistant coach Steven Mangongo told The Independent in Zimbabwe. "The Bangladesh series served as an eye-opener because we observed some worrying frailties in our batting department.
"We want them to improve so that there is a bit more stability especially during the first 15 overs of an innings. We are currently working with the batsmen together with batting coach Grant Flower and we will be joined by the national coach Alan Butcher and we also expect to get some help from Brian Lara at some point later."
Zimbabwe open their World Cup campaign against Australia in Ahmedabad on February 21 before they face Canada in Nagpur on February 28.
20-man squad: Elton Chigumbura (capt), Regis Chakabva, Chamu Chibhabha, Charles Coventry, Graeme Cremer, Terry Duffin, Craig Ervine, Sean Ervine, Greg Lamb, Tino Mawoyo, Shingirai Masakadza, Chris Mpofu, Tinashe Panyangara, Ray Price, Ed Rainsford, Vusi Sibanda, Tatenda Taibu, Brendan Taylor, Prosper Utseya, Sean Williams.