Zimbabwe announce limited-overs squad
Zimbabwe have named their squads for the limited-overs tri-series against Australian and South African A sides, and for a two-day warm-up match preceding their four-day games against Australia A which will set a benchmark ahead of their Test return.
Brendan Taylor, who has just been unveiled as the new national captain, will lead in the one-day games while batsman Vusi Sibanda has been put in charge of a second-string side to play the warm-up at Kwekwe Sports Club, starting on July 11.
A 32-man squad had been in camp since early June, and despite a spate of injuries the team's backroom staff were upbeat ahead of the start of a season in which Zimbabwe's Test readiness will be tested.
"I am pleased with the way the players have responded to the training programme," said national coach Alan Butcher. "Of course, there was some grumbling here and there at first but with the passage of time they all got used to it. The mood in the camp right now is very good. There has been a very great improvement in their physical fitness and technical awareness.
"With a few exceptions, the players are all looking physically fit and strong and are playing lots of cricket among themselves. We have been working hard on both the bowling and batting departments for the last six weeks and it looks good. The guys are bowling a bit quicker in the nets.
"But we cannot be able to judge the progress made so far unless we play other opposition. The proof will be in the pudding when we start playing more against other sides. South Africa and Australia have named strong sides and it's going to be some tough cricket. "But it's good for us ahead of our first Test match in six years," said Butcher.
Assistant coach Stephen Mangongo echoed Butcher's sentiments. "The intensity has been excellent and I am happy some of our key players like Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor are getting it right," he said.
"It's good that our core players are showing this form and are able to stay at the crease for long periods. We need that form and hopefully our confidence levels will improve too," added Mangongo. "These guys have been pushing hard and the more they feel the pressure from the new players the higher they feel the need to raise their game.
"Everyone knows that you have to be on top of your game to be selected. It's not about the names and this is the challenge that most of the players have been facing in the last six weeks. Each player has to prove himself."
One player who appears to have done enough to further his case for selection is 21-year-old left-arm seamer Brian Vitori, who has been included in the limited-overs squad. "He has shown great promise and is doing quite well with the new ball," said Mangongo.
Zimbabwe had also been sweating on Keegan Meth's fitness after he pulled out of a two-day practice game last week after bowling only two overs. His injury was apparently not as serious as previously thought and he has also been included in the squad of 15. Another unexpected name on the team lists is that of allrounder Malcolm Waller. Waller was not part of the original 32-man training squad and was said to have been playing club cricket overseas.
Zimbabwe XI limited-overs squad Brendan Taylor (capt), Regis Chakabva, Tendai Chatara, Elton Chigumbura, Craig Ervine, Hamilton Masakadza, Keegan Meth, Christopher Mpofu, Forster Mutizwa, Raymond Price, Vusimuzi Sibanda, Tatenda Taibu, Prosper Utseya, Brian Vitori, Malcolm Waller.
Zimbabwe XI two-day warm-up squad Vusimuzi Sibanda (capt), Regis Chakabva, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura, Kyle Jarvis, Gregory Lamb, Shingirai Masakadza, Tinotenda Mawoyo, Natsai Mushangwe, Forster Mutizwa, Njabulo Ncube, Tinashe Panyangara, Malcolm Waller.