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Players jostle for national places

Enock Muchinjo

THE tour to Zimbabwe by the Pakistan A cricket side should unlock tough competition for places in the national side ahead of the new international season that begins in August with Test tours

by New Zealand and India.

Already, there seems to be some form of competition back in Zimbabwe cricket, with notable players finding it difficult to get into the current

Zimbabwe “A” side engaging the Pakistanis. Apart from the injuries that saw the likes of pace bowlers Campbell McMillan and Waddington Mwayenga and batsman Terrence Duffin not making the side, other fit and ambitious players that previously played for the “A” side found themselves on the sidelines.

While it is disappointing for these players to be left out in the cold, competition in any field is healthy, and players know that they have to work hard to make the Zimbabwe “A” and eventually the national side.

Some of the players who turned out for Zimbabwe “A” as recently as January have not made it into either the four-day or one-day sides. Players such as Alester Maregwede, who captained the “A” side only this year, and Tafadzwa Mufambisi, who kept wicket, are not in the side.

There are also a number of players who would feel let down about not making Zimbabwe “A” at this stage. Players like all-rounders Ryan Butterworth, Piet Rinke and batsman Conan Brewer from national league champions Old Hararians have been waiting and hoping for some time.

Other players who can consider themselves unlucky are Midlands pacemen Amos Maungwa and Innocent Chinyoka, and Matabeleland batsman Greg Strydom.

Coming back for the tour by Pakistan “A” are former national captain Stuart Carlisle, who is captaining both the four-day and one-day sides, Neil Ferreira, Trevor Gripper and Charles Coventry. All-rounder Douglas Marillier, who came out of semi-retirement at the beginning of the year, will play in the one-day series.

Carlisle did not have a good game on his return to local cricket, being dismissed for a duck in the first innings and scoring 19 in the second. Opening batsman Ferreira made huge strides in his efforts to play for the national team for the first time. The Manicaland captain snatched two half-centuries (57 and 90) in the first four-day match that ended on Monday.

An added advantage is that the Manicaland captain is an agile and competent wicketkeeper.

The other returnee, Gripper used to be in the picture as a regular Test opener for Zimbabwe. However, he did not bat with as much authority in the first Pakistan “A” match as he has been doing in the Logan Cup.

Wicketkeeper and batsman Coventry did not see action in the first match, but still has a chance to impress as he is also in the one-day team.

All-rounder Marillier is a proven one-day specialist, and the matches against Pakistan “A” should be enough for him to work himself back into the national side, especially after scoring a double century in the just ended Logan Cup.

Among the upcoming players, young Chamunorwa Chibhabha has been the most consistent, although of late the runs have not been flowing for the Mashonaland all-rounder. The selectors will think twice too if they have to select the young player so early.

Another prospect, Allan Mwayenga, took four wickets for 64 runs last week. He could sneak through on a technicality, as he is the only left-arm pace bowler of note in Zimbabwean first-class cricket at the moment.

It was distressing to see inform Matabeleland all-rounder Keith Dabengwa carrying the drinks throughout the match at the Zimbabwe Cricket Academy.

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