ZIMBABWE’S boy soldiers trudge into Edgbaston with skipper Tatenda Taibu a doubtful starter as they face hosts England today in the opener of the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy.
Should Taibu – diagnosed with a tear in his right hamstring – fail a late fitness test this morning, it will be a massive blow for inexperienced Zimbabwe as they seek to stand up to in form England’s all-round superiority.
“I’m hopeful I will be fit and it shouldn’t be a problem, but it is an important area for me as the wicketkeeper because I’m moving up and down constantly,” Taibu told AFP.
But with or without the 21-year-old captain, the assignment is daunting for a Zimbabwe made up of greenhorns barely into their 20s who were thrown into the deep end after 15 senior white players revolted over a “racial” selection policy.
The International Cricket Council was compelled to suspend Zimbabwe’s Test matches for the rest of the year after the country had failed to field a competitive side. Zimbabwe’s makeshift squad had been thumped by Sri Lanka and Australia.
Taibu hopes the underdog tag will spur his boys and pull up a surprise against the hosts.
Zimbabwe will look up to Taibu, Dion Ebrahim, Mark Vermeulen, Douglas Hondo and Stuart Matsikenyeri to lessen the gulf in class and experience between them and an England side boasting the likes of Andrew Flintoff, Michael Vaughan, James Anderson and Steve Harmison.
England beat a full-strength Zimbabwe by 108 runs when they met at the last ICC Champions Trophy.
Australia’s Simon Taufel and Steve Buckner from the West Indies will be the on-field umpires in today’s match, with New Zealand’s Brent Bowden on TV while Sri Lankan Ranjan Madugalle will be the match referee.
Besides England and Zimbabwe, Pool 1 also has Sri Lanka – Zimbabwe’s next opponents in the tournament at The Oval on Tuesday.
Tatenda Taibu, Dion Ebrahim, Brendan Taylor, Mark Vermeulen, Alester Maregwede, Vusimuzi Sibanda, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Tawanda Mupariwa, Mluleki Nkala, Tinashe Panyangara, Douglas Hondo, Edward Rainsford, Elton Chigumbura, Prosper Utseya.