Match Analysis

With an eye on 2026 T20 World Cup, Raza wants youngsters to rebuild Zimbabwe's future

They've missed qualification for four ICC events since 2019, but players like Bennett and Campbell give Raza hope

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Brian Bennett picked two important wickets each in the fourth and fifth T20Is, Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe, 5th T20I, Mirpur, May 12, 2024

Brian Bennett picked two important wickets each in the fourth and fifth T20Is  •  AFP/Getty Images

Captain Sikandar Raza has said Zimbabwe will be looking to bring in new players and rebuild the side to "secure" their future in all three formats.
Among those players is Brian Bennett, who put up an all-round show in the fifth T20I against Bangladesh to secure a Zimbabwe win.
Bennet, who made his international debut last year after Zimbabwe failed to qualify for the 2024 men's T20 World Cup, picked 2 for 20 and scored a 49-ball 70 ensuring his team did not suffer a 5-0 T20I series sweep. The 2024 T20 World Cup is the fourth ICC event that Zimbabwe have missed since 2019.
"This is the vision," Raza told ESPNcricinfo. "Because we are not going to the World Cup, we want to rebuild the team. We want to secure our future in all three formats. The senior guys will be there for a bit longer in ODIs and Tests, but in T20s we are trying to build a new team. The long-term vision is for these guys to gain the confidence from T20s to filter into ODIs and Tests.
"I can tell those youngsters that we tried our hardest (in the qualifiers) but it wasn't meant to be. For those coming into the changing room, there's still the right guidance available. Hopefully, our advice and guidance will help you kids cross that hurdle, and get to the World Cup if you ever have to play the qualifiers."
Zimbabwe's tour of Bangladesh was an eye-opener for the side in transition. After the first match, they dropped experienced batters Ryan Burl and Sean Williams for a few games. Craig Ervine was also replaced at one stage after the third T20I. They wanted to give the likes of Bennett, Johnathan Campbell and Tadiwanashe Marumani more game-time.
Bennett batted in three positions in the five games. He struggled initially, but the 70 in the fifth game gave Zimbabwe hope. He also picked important wickets - Shakib Al Hasan and Najmul Hossain Shanto in the fourth T20I and Soumya Sarkar and Towhid Hridoy in the fifth - with his offspin.
"I am very pleased with my performance," Bennett said after the game. "It is Mother's Day, so this one will be for my mum. I am grateful it came out today. I am fine batting anywhere in the order. I don't really have a set position to bat. I can play my normal game during or after the powerplay.
"It is much easier as an allrounder these days to get your name out there. I am working on my bowling a bit. Hopefully, it will get better as my career goes on. It is something that I am definitely willing to get better at."
Bennett went after offspinner Mahedi Hasan, who had success in the powerplay in the first two matches in this series, early on.
"We didn't have a target today, we played freely, played our game,"Bennett said. "The result took care of itself. Offspin is my match-up in the powerplay with two fielders out (of the 30-yard circle). The ball was turning a lot. If you just watched the ball closely, it was easier to play.
"We had wickets in hand. If we took six or seven an over, it was still fine. As long as the run-rate didn't increase too much. When it got to nine (an over), we wanted to get a boundary early in the over. We know we have big finishers in the end to finish the job."
Raza was impressed by the attitude of his younger team-mates.
"The beauty about that kid (Bennett) is that he is so selfless," Raza said. "He batted at No. 3, then got a 44 at No. 6, then he went back to No. 3, and then he opened in the last two innings. He didn't even complain once. We backed him fully whether he failed or not. We told him that we will give him a long run. Have a good attitude about it. We will see what position best suits you."
"Another example of this selflessness is Wellington Masakadza wanted to send Faraz (Akram) ahead of him. Faraz is his junior but Wellington thought that Faraz was in better form. That's the culture we want to bring into the dressing room where everyone is constantly thinking about winning the game. We think for the whole team and the country."
Masakadza had a decent tour with bat and ball. Newcomers Faraz and Campbell fought hard with the bat. Blessing Muzarabani continued to be the leader of the bowling unit, and Raza was impressed with how he took on Richard Ngarava's role when the left-arm quick was injured.
"I am extremely proud of how well Campbell has responded in this tour. Bangladesh can be a tough place. He has batted and fielded really well. He can bowl as well. I was super impressed by these two kids (Campbell and Bennett).
"It was impressive of Muzarabani to step up when Ngarava wasn't around. Ngarava usually gives us the initial breakthrough. Faraz batted well, he bowled okay here and there. A lot of the mistakes these kids made was due to inexperience. Not for a lack of skill and quality. The more matches they play, they will get better."
Zimbabwe have a lot of work in front of them, but they want to ensure automatic qualification to the T20 World Cup in 2026. Raza said that they always keep an eye on the rankings and points system. "For some reason, Zimbabwe play great in qualifiers but in the do-or-die match, all of us tend to fall off. We just want to make sure we qualify directly, and we don't have to play these qualifiers again."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84