Craig Wishart and Trevor Gripper have been recalled to the squad for Zimbabwe's maiden Test tour of Australia next month. Also included are the hard-hitting allrounder Craig Evans, who played the last of his two Tests against India in October 1998, and the uncapped offspinner Gavin Ewing.
For the first time in 15 years, however, there will be no Flowers in Zimbabwe's squad - Andy retired after the 2003 World Cup, while Grant broke his thumb in a recent Logan Cup match and will be out of action for up to six weeks. On their recent tour of England, Grant had been the only Zimbabwean player with a Test century to his name, but the recall of Wishart and Gripper provides a semblance of experience to the batting - even though their hundreds were both scored against the not-so-mighty Bangladeshis.
"This first Test tour of Australia is a milestone in the history of Zimbabwe cricket," said the captain, Heath Streak. "It offers us a fantastic opportunity to pit our skills against some of the best players in the world. We know that the cricket will be intense and we do not expect Australia to underestimate us or take the Tests lightly.
"Every player in the squad will be looking to learn from the tour and to advance his game," added Streak. "With a coaching team of Geoff Marsh and Bruce Reid we will have the very best information and advice on the Australians, and will be straining every sinew to put them under as much pressure as possible."
Marsh, who coached Australia to the 1999 World Cup, has been in charge of Zimbabwe since October 2001. The recruitment of Reid, however, is quite a coup. He and Marsh go back a very long way, having played for Western Australia together in four Sheffield Shield-winning sides in the 1980s and early '90s. They made their Test debuts in the same game, against India in 1985-86, and both featured in Australia's World Cup-winning team against England at Calcutta in 1987-88.
Zimbabwe's two Tests will be played at Perth and Sydney, and all insights will be vital. "Playing conditions at the WACA and the SCG are very different and very demanding of a player's technique, whether batting or bowling," said Marsh. "With a tight playing schedule there is little time to acclimatise, so it is important that the coaching team is highly experienced in those conditions. Bruce will help the bowlers come to terms with the bounce at the WACA, as well as the turn they are likely to encounter at the SCG. I will obviously be doing the same for the batters."
Zimbabwe squad Heath Streak (capt), Tatenda Taibu (wk), Andy Blignaut, Gary Brent, Stuart Carlisle, Dion Ebrahim, Sean Ervine, Craig Evans, Gavin Ewing, Trevor Gripper, Douglas Hondo, Stewart Matsikenyeri, Ray Price, Mark Vermeulen, Craig Wishart