THE covers are off!
It’s Test time once again. The first Croco Motors Test match betwee
n Zimbabwe and New Zealand begins at Harare Sports Club on Sunday morning with the home side hoping to win the match and give their followers something to cheer about.
Sport provides a source of pride and fulfilment to the multitudes that follow it, whether passionately or casually. And for Zimbabwe in particular, the national cricket team must step in and give Zimbabweans another reason to be proud of who they are.
Cricket has grown to become the second biggest sport in Zimbabwe, and commitment and pride in representing the cricket team is a prerequisite for the players, moreso because now they are playing for a larger audience than before. What the players do on the pitch gives pride to a lot of people, and many youngsters formulate role models in the players.
So putting on the Zimbabwe badge must compel each selected player to want to fight like a lion for their country.
In Zimbabwe, the early days of Test cricket do not normally attract big crowds. But providentially, the first three days of the Harare Test are Sunday, which is a holiday anyway, and then Monday and Tuesday that are public holidays. This should allow a larger number of spectators to come to the match. Of late, the afternoon weather has been warm and so the sunbathers out there will have their day.
It is important to Zimbabwe to get more people interested in cricket, and pulling crowds at international games is a huge stride in developing cricket in the country.
More spectators are expected for the one-day international matches in the Videocon triangular series involving Zimbabwe, India and New Zealand. Also, fans must be encouraged to go and watch the neutral games between India and New Zealand in the triangular series.
But going back to the Tests, New Zealand appear on paper the favourites to win the two games. The Kiwis have got a stronger and experienced side, propelled by Stephen Fleming, the longest-serving Test captain in the world.
But Zimbabwe are a determined side, and all the work that the team put in over the last two months of training should stand them in good stead to get results. And Zimbabwe have a noteworthy record against the Black Caps, with some of the country’s best individual performances coming against the men from down under.
Zimbabwe welcome all-rounder Heath Streak from Warwickshire in the English county league.
With the likes of captain Tatenda Taibu and batsman Hamilton Masakadza looking ahead to developing into better Test players, Zimbabwe’s mixture of youth and experience should work for the side.
Streak, pace bowler Andy Blignaut and wicketkeeper/ batsman Taibu have also been selected for the African XI side to play against an Asian XI in the One Day games of the Afro-Asia Cup, in South Africa in a fortnight. The side comprises 13 South Africans, with Zimbabwe and Kenya supplying three players each.