Hamilton Masakadza set for first World Cup
Zimbabwe batsman Hamilton Masakadza has been picked in a World Cup squad for the first time despite having made his ODI debut in 2001
Hamilton Masakadza will play in his first World Cup after 14 years as an international cricketer, having made his debut in 2001. He was included in Zimbabwe's 15 for the first time, after missing out on the 2003, 2007 and 2011 events because of inexperience, injury and poor form.
Zimbabwe also included Stuart Matsikenyeri, who last played for them in the 2012 World T20, Chamu Chibhabha, who has been overlooked since March 2013 and Prosper Utseya, even though he was banned from bowling his main discipline, offspin, because of an illegal action last year. There was also a recall for Sean Williams, who was not selected for the November tour to Bangladesh after a dispute with the selectors, but no space for the out-of-form Vusi Sibanda or left-arm seamer Brian Vitori.
That gives Zimbabwe a well-balanced squad with experience at its foundation and youth to prop it up. Elton Chigumbura, who was in charge at the 2011 World Cup before being relieved of the role, will captain Zimbabwe again and head the experienced core. He will have Brendan Taylor, who is still Test captain, Masakadza and Utseya to form part of the think-tank.
Utseya's inclusion may strike as surprising because he will not be able to offer his main discipline - restrict opposition with offspin - but he has been working on other skills. He was recently on a tour to Uganda with Takashinga Cricket Club, coached by sacked Zimbabwe coach Stephen Mangongo, and resurrected his career as a medium-pacer. Peter Kirsten, who is in charge of Uganda and was at that series, said Utseya's prospects of becoming a threatening medium-pacer are "promising" because of his ability to bowl cutters, which is what Zimbabwe hope he will do at the tournament. "He is our mystery spinner, bowling mediums and cutters and his experience will be vital for us," Givemore Makoni, Zimbabwe's selection convener said.
Although Zimbabwe will miss Utseya's spin, they have given themselves plenty of choice in that department. Legspinner Tafadzwa Kamungozi will be their attacking spinner while Sikandar Raza and Matsikenyeri will bowl offspin and Williams, left-arm spin. Given the conditions, their seam bowlers could prove more important to their chances of bowling teams out but Zimbabwe left out the man often referred to as their most threatening wicket-taker, Vitori.
The left-armer has bounced in and out of the national squad as he battled injuries and interruptions in form and Zimbabwe decided his inconsistency was too risky for a major tournament. "The bowlers we have gone with have done better than him," Makoni said when explaining why Tinashe Panyangara and Tendai Chatara will be asked to lead the attack.
They will be joined by an additional quick in Tawanda Mupariwa, who has not played international cricket since 2009. Mupariwa was on Zimbabwe's A tour to Bangladesh, where he took three wickets in two matches at 19.33.
Other returning faces include Chibhabha, who made his case with 155 off 146 balls in a match between Zimbabwe A and Canada , which took place a day before the squad was announced. Matsikenyeri, who has spent time in South Africa before returning to try and resurrect his international career in Zimbabwe, also played in that match and scored 50 and Craig Ervine, is also involved in that series.
Zimbabwe A are currently in the midst of a four-match series against Canada as part of their preparations for the World Cup. They will also hold a camp in Dubai with new coach Dav Whatmore, who said he was "happy with squad" and had "spoken to all those who missed out and assured them they are still part of the future." The only member of the squad who will not be part of the preparations is Solomon Mire. He is playing in the Dhaka Premier League and will meet up with the team in New Zealand ahead of the tournament.
Although Whatmore has not been given an official mandate for the World Cup, he has stated his goal is to get Zimbabwe out of the group stage and into the last eight. Whatmore's deal with Zimbabwe will be renegotiated at the end of the tournament.
Squad Elton Chigumbura (capt), Sikandar Raza, Regis Chakabva, Tendai Chatara, Chamu Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, Hamilton Masakadza, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Solomon Mire, Tawanda Mupariwa, Tinashe Panyangara, Brendan Taylor, Prosper Utseya, Sean Williams
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent