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No clear favourite as Twenty20 spectacle begins

“IN T20 the playing field is level…it’s anyone’s game.”

These are the words of Robin Brown, the coach of Matabeleland Tuskers at the launch of the Stanbic Twenty20 tournament on Wednesday.
And no one was better qualified to make this remarks than Brown, who as Zimbabwe national team coach, led the youthful and inexperienced African side to a stunning five-wicket defeat of Australia at the 2007 ICC World Twenty20 event in South Africa.
Twent20 is indeed a game of good fortune at times. Fortunately, this has not prevented the cricketing world from embracing this exciting form as the future of cricket. 
The Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008 and 2009 was a perfect example of how domestic T20 can generate tremendous spectator interest, and perhaps inspired by that, Zimbabwe will for 10 days, starting today, stage its own IPL (including the dancing girls, too!).
So, who will be crowned the first champions of Zimbabwe’s Twent20 championship? We looked at the different teams, especially the five Zimbabwean franchises, and decided it was a going to be a really tight call. Happily we did our best to scrutinise the teams and leave the verdict to you!
Mashonaland Eagles
Strengths: Reputation. Just being the country’s strongest and most successful province in history is a big plus for the Eagles. In their captain Elton Chigumbura they have an internationally renowned butcher, and this is the form of the game that best suits him. Forster Mutizwa is also a merciless batter in the top order. Greg Lamb is enjoying a rich vein of form, and fitness permitting Doug Marillier’s unorthodox batting at the top will remind everyone of the ‘Marillier Shot’ he invented on the Indian subcontinent. 
Experienced spinner Ray Price relishes bowling long after his colleagues have wilted. He will find T20 shorter and more enjoyable.
Weaknesses: Their pace attack. Elton Chigumbura can let rip at pace, but if he doesn’t constantly get the ball in the right areas as should be in this shorter version, the opposition will have a go. Same applies to his new ball partner Kyle Jarvis.
Coach: Chris Silverwood
Captain: Elton Chigumbura
Squad: Greg Lamb, Regis Chakabva, Forster Mutizwa, Ray Price, Kyle Jarvis, Douglas Hondo, Ryan Butterworth, Trevor Garwe, Cephas Zhuwawo, Admire Manyumwa, Prince Masvaure, Mark Mbofana, Douglas Marillier.
Matabeleland Tuskers
Strengths: A sense of ownership. Most of the players in the team are Matabeleland boys. They grew up at the same time, played age-group, provincial, and then national cricket together. In Robin Brown they have a gaffer capable of achieving short-term goals.
Charles Coventry is a batsman capable of savaging any bowling attack, and teaming up with the returning Andy Blignaut is an exciting prospect.
Fielding is a massive part of the game, and Dion Ebrahim will be key to that.
Weaknesses: They don’t have many. They look a well-rounded side; batting, pace bowling (Tawanda Mupariwa and Chris Mpofu), spin (John Nyumbu, Keith Dabengwa and skipper Ewing) and fielding (Ebrahim).
Coach: Robin Brown
Captain: Gavin Ewing
Squad: Charles Coventry, Andy Blignaut, Keith Dabengwa, Keagan Meth, Dion Ebrahim, Greg Strydom, Sean Williams, Tawanda Mupariwa, Chris Mpofu, Thabo Mboyi, Gerald Aliseni, John Nyumbu.
Manicaland Mountaineers
Strengths: In Hamilton Masakadza, Tatenda Taibu, Stuart Matsikenyeri and Prosper Utseya they have players who are not just national side regulars, but exemplary players of unquestionable commitment and pride. A lot will be expected from Johnson Maruma too. He must grab this opportunity with both hands. In 2007 he was considered the country’s most attacking batsman. The selectors duly took him to the 2007 World Twenty20, but didn’t give him game time.
Weaknesses: They don’t have a strong pace attack. There will be a heavy burden on the young shoulders of spinners Timycen Maruma and Natsayi Mushangwe. Part-timers Hamilton Masakadza and Stuart Matsikenyeri will be called upon to back-up.
Coach: Stephen Mangongo
Captain: Hamilton Masakadza
Squad: Tatenda Taibu, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Prosper Utseya, Tino Mawoyo, Timycen Maruma, Shingi Masakadza, Natsayi Mushangwe, Bernard Mlambo, Johnson Marumisa, Stephen Nyamuzinga, Donald Tiripano, Njabulo Ncube.
Midwest Rhinos
Strengths: A strong batting line-up comprising of Brendan Taylor, captain Vusi Sibanda, Malcolm Waller and Englishmen Darren Stevens and Rikki Wessels. Ollie Rayner, the third English professional in the franchise, will provide a formidable twin spin-threat with legspinner Graeme Cremer.
Weaknesses: The form and confidence of their chief bowler Ed Rainsford. Michael Chinouya and Taurai Muzarabani are both promising pacemen, but they tend to perform in patches.

Coach: Andy Waller
Captain: Vusi Sibanda
Squad: Brendan Taylor, Rikki Wessels, Mluleki Nkala, Bothwell Chapungu, Friday Kasteni, Malcolm Waller, Remembrance Nyathi, Ollie Rayner, Darren Stevens, Innocent Chikunya, Taurai Muzarabani, Graeme Cremer, Ed Rainsford, Michael Chinouya.

Southern Rocks
Strengths: Sean Ervine. This is a big, big player for the Masvingo-based outfit. If the allrounder gets support from his two younger brothers, Craig and Ryan, Rocks will rock.  Gloucestershire’s Zimbabwean fast bowler Anthony Ireland arrived mid-week to boost an otherwise thin attack.
Weaknesses: Kenyan great Steve Tikolo will miss the first few games, while his countryman Thomas Odoyo has been ruled out by injury.

Player-Coach: Ian Harvey
Captain: Sean Ervine/ Steve Tikolo
Squad: Alester Maregwede, Chamu Chibhabha, Eric Chauluka, Craig Ervine, Ryan Ervine, Sikander Raza Butt, Anthony Ireland, Steve Tikolo, Thomas Odoyo, Blessing Mahwire, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, Tendai Chisoro.

Strengths & Weaknesses: Not much is known about the “Desert Vipers”. Zimbabwean-born Rangarirai Manyande, a player who failed to hold down a regular provincial team place here, is in their side. The team also contains two South Africans and an English national.

Coach: Johan Rudolph
Captain: Craig Williams
Squad: Willem Groenewald, Zhivago Groenewald, Louis Klazinga, Tiaan Louw, Rangarirai Manyande, Antonio Palladino, Dwayne Pretorius, Gerhard Rudolph, Bernard Sholtz, Raymond Van Schoor, Tobias Verwey, Christoffel Viljoen, Craig Williams.




Enock Muchinjo

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