Zimbabwe will get their campaign at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 underway on Monday with a tricky Group B fixture against Ireland at the Bellerive Oval in Hobart.
The game is scheduled to start at 7pm local time (10am CAT).
Zimbabwe head coach Dave Houghton is backing his charges – back on the big stage for the first time since 2016 – to make an impression and progress to the Super 12 stage of the tournament that is being staged in Australia.
“Here in Australia, we have had some really good practice . . . even though we lost our second warm-up game to rain, we have had some good work indoors and outdoors and we have finished off our training schedule tonight with a really good run-around under these beautiful lights here in Hobart,” Houghton said on the eve of the game against Ireland.
“Everyone is itching to go and can’t wait to get started,” he added.
“I am really happy with where we are, really happy with the preparation build-up . . . For this World Cup we have got everybody fit and raring to go and it’s good to have some of the experienced hands back in.”
Houghton said while he had been impressed by Namibia’s giant-killing act in their win over Sri Lanka in the opening match of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup played in Geelong on Sunday, he believed Zimbabwe had what it takes to not only get the better of Ireland but go all the way to win Group B which also includes the West Indies and Scotland.
“It was great for Namibia, fantastic for them – they have taken a big scalp in the first round,” he said.
“But the way I see us, I see us as the big scalp. So, for me my expectation is that we play well enough to win all three games.
“We have got a tough job starting tomorrow. Ireland is a tough team, West Indies again on Wednesday is a tough team, but my expectation for us is that we win all games.”
Among the players that Houghton will be banking on for success is Sikandar Raza, who comes into the tournament as one of the form players in white-ball international cricket this year.
“The truth is I am a bit nervous, I am a bit anxious, but I think all these feelings basically mean I really care,” the all-rounder said.
“Coming here as the form guy . . . this is where it matters the most, so hopefully I can carry that form into the next three games and inshallah together as a team we qualify for the Super 12 and carry on with form there as well.
“I am confident . . . this is where it really matters for myself and for the team and for the country and for people all over the world – Zimbabweans and those who were wishing us well.”
Another key player for Zimbabwe is the veteran campaigner Sean Williams, who played at the inaugural ICC Men’s T20 World Cup staged in South Africa in 2007.
“This is huge for me. This is absolutely massive, to be playing as long as I have been playing – it’s an absolute gift and it’s an honour,” Williams said.
“It’s something special to be able to play this long without a career-threatening injury or anything like that.
“It’s pretty weird being on the field with someone who was six years old when I made my debut, but it’s fun and exciting. I am just grateful to still be athletic enough to be able to play.”
In their next match, Zimbabwe will take on the West Indies on Wednesday before completing their first-round action against Scotland on Friday.
The top two teams from Group B will join the Super 12 stage, along with the top two sides from Group A which features Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands and Namibia.
ZIMBABWE SQUAD FOR ICC MEN’S T20 WORLD CUP 2022:
Ervine Craig (captain), Burl Ryan, Chakabva Regis, Chatara Tendai, Evans Bradley, Jongwe Luke, Madande Clive, Madhevere Wessly, Masakadza Wellington, Munyonga Tony, Muzarabani Blessing, Ngarava Richard, Raza Sikandar, Shumba Milton, Williams Sean