THE ninth edition of Zimbabweâ€™s premier domestic limited-overs competition, the Faithwear Cup, starts tomorrow in Harare following the launch Thursday.
The 50-overs competition, sponsored by local clothing label Faithwear, runs until March 7 at the Harare Sports Club, Zimbabwe Cricket Academy Ground and Takashinga Cricket Club.
The tournament will be held at a time Zimbabwe Cricket is trying to rebuild by luring former players to the first-class and international fold.
Already back in the reckoning is former Test batsman Mark Vermeulen, who was given selection green light by ZC last month a year after a Harare court, on mental health grounds, cleared him of two arson attacks on the academy pavilion in Highlands and the ZC boardroom at Harare Sports Club.
Vermeulen was drafted into his old province, Matabeleland, now known as Westerns in the new first-class setup. Earlier this week he was also named in the Zimbabwe A side due to tour Namibia soon.
Also returning alongside Vermeulen is aggressive top-order batsman Charles Coventry, who quit the national side in 2006 after a dispute with former coach Kevin Curran.
Talented Australia-based Bren-dan Taylor was named in the Northerns side in the hope that ongoing negotiations over his comeback will be successful.
IndependentSport can however reveal that Taylor is not expected in the country until early March.
On Thursday aylor played for his club, Northern Melbourne, in a charity match to raise funds for victims of bush fires in western Australia.
He will play in the clubâ€™s final fixture of the season Saturday.
The charity organisers are however hopeful that Taylor will stay on for the duration of the matches.
â€œWeâ€™ll also have a few other activities and weâ€™re hoping to have a few guest players, including Zimbabwean Test player Brendan Taylor,â€ said an official on the organisersâ€™ website.
This will rule him out for most if not all of the Faithwear series.
Meanwhile, defending champions Easterns, together with Northerns and Westerns all fancy their chances of winning the competition.
The men from Matabeleland, however, should be the pre-tournament favourites as on paper theirs appear to be the most balanced side. Batsmen Vermeulen, Coventry and Sean Williams can individually win games, while national side strike bowlers Tawanda Mupariwa and Chris Mpofu are by a distance the best new ball pair in the tournament.
Spinning all-rounder and captain Keith Dabengwa and upcoming off-break bowler John Nyumbu add crucial variation to the attack.
The Zimbabwe trio of explosive all-rounder Elton Chigumbura, who captains the side, top-order batsman Tatenda Taibu and veteran spinner Ray Price fortify Northerns.
Easterns are still missing injured kingpin Tino Mawoyo through a long-term injury, but if captain and key batsman Hamilton Masakadza, promising national side newcomer Forster Mutizwa and off-spinner Prosper Utseya discharge their full potential, the Easterners could have a say in the destiny of the title again.
Elton Chigumbura (captain), Tatenda Taibu, Brendan Taylor, Regis Chakabva (w/keeper), Cephas Zhuwawo, Bernard Mlambo, Sam Mwakayeni, Ray Price, Admire Manyumwa, Trevor Garwe, Graeme Cremer, Pete Moor, Tinashe Chimbambo, Tinotenda Mutombodzi, Clement Rizhibowa, Saed Bala.
Keith Dabengwa (captain), Mark Vermeulen, Tafadzwa Ngulube (w/keeper), Sean Williams, Charles Coventry, Mbekezeli Mabuza, Freedom Takarusenga, Romeo Kasawaya, Tawanda Mupariwa, Chris Mpofu, John Nyumbu, Njabulo Ncube, Titus Chipare, Kendrick Moyo, Thabo Mboyi.
Chamu Chibhabha (captain), Eric Chauluka, Ed Rainsford, Malcolm Waller, Nathan Waller, Richie Mutumbami, Robert Chinyengetere, Bothwell Chapungu, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, Tendai Chisoro, Mike Chinouya, Remembrance Nyathi, Solomon Mire, Tendai Chitongo, Simbarashe Gupo, Vusi Sibanda, Friday Kasteni, Alester Maregwede (w/keeper), Roger Kahiya.
Hamilton Masakadza (captain), Stuart Matsikenyeri, Johnson Marumisa, Forster Mutizwa (w/keeper), Timycen Maruma, Prosper Utseya, Shingi Masakadza, Silent Mujaji, Steady Musoso, Philemon Kadzitye, Natsai Mushangwe, Douglas Hondo, Steven Nyamuzinga, Tendai Chatara, Bezer Sanyika, Donald Tiripano.
BY ENOCK MUCHINJO