ZIMBABWEâ€™S cricket selectors will be forced to pick a weakened side for the forthcoming tours to Canada and Kenya after three of the teamâ€™s better batsmen, Vusi Sibanda, Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams were all confirmed unavailable for different reasons.
Right-handed opener Sibanda has not fully recovered from a hip damage although he has started light training with the rest of the squad. Taylor has not renewed his contract with Zimbabwe Cricket, and despite the board maintaining that players not on contract can nonetheless be selected, the talented wicketkeeper/batsman has decided to stay in Europe where he is currently turning out for the Lashings club in the UK.
IndependentSport has also learnt that left-hander Williams, who is coming from an ankle injury layoff, could be eyeing a move to the Highveld Lions in South Africa.
The nature of his attachment to the Johannesburg-based franchise could not be established although sources close to the former Zimbabwe Under 19 captain said they hope any contract he signs will be one that allows him to play for his national side when needed as was the case with Sibanda in Australia.
Zimbabwe will play for the first time in North America in the Twenty20 Canada Cup in Toronto as replacement for the West Indies who pulled out. They will contest the four-nation event with Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the hosts from October 10-13 before connecting to Nairobi for a triangular series with hosts Kenya and Ireland starting on October 15.
Head of the selectors Kenyon Ziehl admitted that the loss of the trio will weaken the side, but tried to extract some advantages out of it.
“Itâ€™s obviously a blow to go into any tournament without three of your best top-order batsmen,” Ziehl said. “But I think it gives opportunities to the younger players to stake their places. It also broaden our base. Itâ€™s positive on that side.”
He said the unavailability of the three key players should encourage the other experienced players in the side to seize responsibility.
“Our other senior players like (Tatenda) Taibu, (Hamilton) Masakadza and (Stuart) Matsikenyeri have to produce big innings. And we also have someone like (Chamu) Chibhabha who has to step up and show maturity.”
Ziehl said the other injured player, national side fringe Tino Mawoyo, was also on the road to recovery.
“He walks around a bit. He is in the gym. But he needs to take it easy. An injury tells you when you are ready. He mustnâ€™t rush it. But heâ€™s getting better.”
Ziehl said Sibanda is almost certain to play when Sri Lanka tours Zimbabwe in November, but was not sure about Taylor and Williamsâ€™ long-term availability.
“In the long-term (the availability of) Taylor and Williams is subject to discussion. But Zimbabwe is for Zimbabweans. They are young and a bit immature and I hope they will soon realise that home is home.”
Meanwhile in preparation for the Canada tournament, three local select sides are playing Twenty20 warm-ups which started yesterday and ends today in Harare. Not that many Twenty20 specialists are expected to make the touring party because the same side will then proceed to Kenya for the ODI tournament
“It will be generally a one-day side,” Ziehl said. “But if someone is to do well in the Twenty20 and gets selected, he can always be useful in the ODIs in Kenya if we need someone who can hit over the top in the first 10 overs or so.”
The final squad of 15 will be selected today.
Probable squad (from)
Prosper Utseya (captain), Stuart Matsikenyeri, Ray Price, Tatenda Taibu, Hamilton Masakadza, Elton Chigumbura, Tawanda Mupariwa, Chris Mpofu, Chamu Chibhabha, Keith Dabengwa, Graeme Cremer, Edward Rainsford, Regis Chakabva, Timycen Maruma, Taurai Muzarabani, Johnson Marumisa, Bonaparte Mujuru, Trevor Garwe.
By Enock Muchinjo