Zimbabwe are pinning their faith on the unpredictable nature of one-day cricket as the 2007 World Cup prepares to get underway in the West Indies. Zimbabwe's coach, Kevin Curran, told Cricinfo on the eve of the squad's departure from Harare: "Anything can happen in one-day cricket, and when it does it's up to your players to perform on the day, we've had the players to do so in the past."
Although they have been perennial underdogs and have won only eight of their past 42 World Cup games, history shows Zimbabwe have a knack of upsetting more fancied opponents. They beat Australia by 13 runs in their debut World Cup match in Nottingham in 1983, thanks to the exploits of their captain (and current England coach) Duncan Fletcher, not to mention Curran himself, who scored 27 and picked up the valuable wicket of Allan Border.
And in 1992, after losing 18 consecutive World Cup matches over a nine-year period, Zimbabwe beat the eventual finalists, England, by nine runs at Albury in Australia in 1992. They then followed that by beating South Africa by 48 runs in Chelmsford in 1999, a result which was instrumental in South Africa's elimination after they tied their semi-final with Australia.
At this year's World Cup, Zimbabwe are pitted in Group D and will take on Ireland before facing Pakistan and West Indies, with Curran hopeful his team will prove competitive. "We won't be taking Ireland lightly because they have guys who have played at a decent standard of cricket," Curran said, "but I'd like to think we could beat them on our day.
"West Indies have great players like Brian Lara and Chris Gayle, but they can't fire every time. And as we've seen in Pakistan's series in South Africa [which South Africa won 3-1], they can be very average. We know we have to win two games to have a realistic chance of reaching the Super Eight round."
Disputes with administrators have drained most of the experienced players out of Zimbabwe, and as a result, the batsman Stuart Matsikenyeri is the only member of the squad who has featured in a previous World Cup. Curran tried to impart a positive spin to Zimbabwe's lack of experience saying: "Sometimes you can use that to your advantage, West Indies and Pakistan will be under pressure to play well against us, while our guys can go out and play with a bit of flair and hopefully produce the goods."
Zimbabwe play two warm up games at Arnos Vale in St Vincent prior to the main tournament which starts on March 13. The Zimbabwean's first warm-up is against the wounded Australians on March 6, followed by Bermuda on the 8th. Zimbabwe leave for the Caribbean on Wednesday.
James Jones is a freelance journalist based in Zimbabwe