Zimbabwe have made major personnel changes to their squad for the upcoming tour of Pakistan by recalling six players and naming one new cap. Zimbabwe's 15-man squad includes seven changes from their 2015 World Cup team.
There was no room for Regis Chakabva, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Tafadzwa Kamungozi and Solomon Mire, while Tendai Chatara was forced out because of a broken leg. Brendan Taylor had already retired from the national side to pursue a country cricket career, meaning the Pakistan series will be Zimbabwe's first without Taylor in seven years.
What Zimbabwe will miss from Taylor's experience, though, they will make up through the returnees, many of whom have extensive international experience. Both Sibanda and Mpofu have been playing at the highest level for over a decade, although neither have featured for the team recently. Sibanda was dropped for the World Cup after a disappointing tour of Bangladesh, but has been recalled after scoring two centuries and two half-centuries in his last six matches.
Mpofu's absence has stretched even longer - he last played for Zimbabwe in 2013 before a series of injury kept him on the sidelines. However, the injury to Chatara and his own form - Mpofu topped the 2014-15 domestic List-A wicket-takers' list with 19 scalps at 20.47 - has seen him force his way back in.
The bowling has also been bolstered by the return of Vitori and Cremer, the legspinner who quit cricket for golf but has since U-turned on that decision and reclaimed the position occupied by Kamungozi at the World Cup. Zimbabwe's other spinners include Sean Williams and Raza, while Prosper Utseya can offer medium-pace after he was banned from bowling offspin.
Mutumbami will take over the gloves from Taylor, but it is the uncapped Kaia who may bat in his No.4 position. Kaia was the leading run-scorer in the domestic fifty-over competition, scoring 382 runs for Mountaineers in nine innings at an average of 76.40, which included three fifties and a hundred. Kaia also bowls offspin.
But of all the players in the squad, it will be Coventry, who once held the record for the highest individual score in an ODI, who will attract the most attention. He has not played for Zimbabwe since October 2011, and has not featured in any of their domestic competitions for the last two seasons. Coventry turned down an offer to join the squad ahead of the 2014 World T20, citing Zimbabwe Cricket's financial situation as the reason for staying away, and has been playing club cricket in the UAE.
Coventry's aggressive batting style is expected to signal a change of strategy from Zimbabwe, particularly in T20 cricket, where they will look for higher run-rates than they have previously achieved. At the World Cup, Zimbabwe's focus was to patiently build an innings in an attempt to stay in the game for as long as possible, and while it kept them competitive, it did not bring them the desired results.
The Pakistan series is Zimbabwe's first international assignment since the World Cup, and it will usher in a busy winter period that will see visits from South Africa, New Zealand and Pakistan. Zimbabwe's main aim in the coming months is to break into the top eight in the ODI rankings and earn automatic qualification to the 2019 World Cup.
Zimbabwe squad: Elton Chigumbura (capt), Sikandar Raza, Chamu Chibhabha, Charles Coventry, Graeme Cremer, Craig Ervine, Roy Kaia, Hamilton Masakadza, Christopher Mpofu, Tawanda Mupariwa, Richmond Mutumbami, Tinashe Panyangara, Vusi Sibanda, Prosper Utseya, Brian Vitori, Sean Williams