Mark Vermeulen: back in favour with Zimbabwe Cricket © AFP
 
Mark Vermeulen's rehabilitation is almost complete. A little over a year ago he was in court facing up to 25 years in prison after an arson attack which destroyed Zimbabwe's cricket academy. But he was acquitted of that charge on the grounds of mental illness, and today he was named in the Zimbabwe A squad to tour Namibia next month.

Vermeulen, who turns 30 on March 2, played the last of his eight Tests and 32 ODIs in December 2004, but could yet add to that tally if this comeback proves a success. He has been named alongside other players who have had a taste of senior cricket such as Charles Coventry, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, Shingi Masakadza, and Regis Chakabva for the tour that runs from March 10-16 in Windhoek.

After their first training session at the CFX Academy on Monday, Zimbabwe A coach Steven Mangongo told the ZC website that he is happy with the enthusiasm displayed by the players during the work-out and hopes to pick the right players for the tour of Namibia.

"We had our first proper session with the squad in the morning and tomorrow [Tuesday] we are playing the national team and that should give us some points as to where we stand. It is during such practice matches that we hope to be finalizing on the 14 players and three reserves for the tour," said Mangongo.

Aside from his highly publicised misadventure, Vermeulen has a reputation as a difficult character, a trait that stems in part from a sickening head injury he sustained while batting against Irfan Pathan during Zimbabwe's VB Series campaign in Australia in January 2004. But Magongo said that he was impressed so far by his attitude in training, and hoped that he would sustain the same commitment and hard work.

"Mark is a good player whom I am working with to give the side what we believe he can offer," said Magongo. "His fitness is fine and we are working with getting him the right technique so that he starts scoring runs for the side, something we believe he can do. If that happens, then our reconstruction on his career would be on the right path."

The team leaves on March 10 and will play three ODIs and one Twenty20 during the tour. Mangongo reckons that the level of the national league is low and that eats into the quality of the players produced, so playing associate nations gives them the opportunity to grow.

"The best way of judging our strength is, as a Test nation, our A sides should be able to beat the national teams of associate nations such as Namibia. I believe there is no reason our A side should lose to Namibia as it is the only yardstick we can measure our progress with. We are going to Namibia to win and if that does not happen it means we are not doing enough with our A squads," said Mangongo, who expects to settle on the final 14 players and reserves by Thursday.

Zimbabwe A E Chauluka, M Vermuelen, R Chakabva, B Mlambo, T Ngulube, M Mabuza, P Moore, B Chapungu, T Chimbambo, M Waller, C Coventry, R Chinyengetere, S Masakadza, T Garwe, A Manyumwa, P Charumbira, T Maruma, T Kamungozi, N Mushangwe, T Chisoro. Reserves - C Zhuwawo, M Chinouya, J Nyumbu, B Bala.