The T-20 series has stolen the limelight from the longer versions of cricket with a full house expected at the Harare Sports Club for the tournament.
Rocks had suffered a mini set-back after county side Yorkshire barred Ryan Sidebottom from participating in the Stanbic series, but they swiftly replaced him with New Zealander Chris Harris in addition to Elton Chigumbura whom they signed from Mashonaland Eagles.
Adding to that, they have been boosted by news that West Indies legend Brian
Lara would make the trip to Zimbabwe to play for them. Lara is expected in Harare today.
Sidebottom had agreed to come and play for the Masvingo franchise and was expected to arrive in the country on Wednesday, but his club said he could not travel to Harare for the tournament.
The former England speed star’s agent wrote to Rocks’ chief executive officer Givemore Makoni this week informing him that the county side had declined to release Sidebottom for the tournament.
“We received communication from his agent via email informing us that the player can no longer come because Yorkshire refused to release him,” said Makoni. “The agent stated that Sidebottom had tried in vain to have Yorkshire reverse their decision to bar him from travelling to Zimbabwe. The county side has one of their bowlers injured and they will need him for their up-coming fixtures. He was keen on coming here to play and the decision to bar him was disappointing to both him and to us.”
Bottom’s agent had offered England international Samit Patel as a replacement, but Rocks opted for all-rounder Harris.
Rocks still boast of having arguably the strongest squad for the Stanbic series with Lara, Tatenda Taibu, Chigumbura and Craig Ervine in their books.
After failing to get the Sidebottom pace, Rocks will bank on the trickery Harris offers to spearhead their attack.
And they will not be limited for pace too as Chigumbura will be a valuable addition having gained so much experience on the international scene.
A veteran of 23 Tests and 250 One-Day-Internationals for New Zealand, Harris will add his experience to a determined Rocks side that has left no stone unturned in their preparations for this edition of the tourney.
He last played for New Zealand in 2004, but has continued to play domestic cricket for Canterbury and in the Indian Cricket League.
Rocks launch their campaign with a match against Rhinos who have another New Zealander Lou Vincent as well as Zimbabwe opening batsman Brendan Taylor, bowler Edward Rainsford, Garry Ballance and Vusa Sibanda.
It should be real test for Rocks as they
face up with the Jason Gillespie-coached
franchise backed by lots of experience and talent.
The Midlands franchise finished at the bottom of the standings in the last edition played earlier this year and will be looking for an improved show.
Weather permitting, fans will be treated to four matches at the weekend with two matches on each day.
Matabeleland Tuskers have a date with Eagles in the afternoon match tomorrow before taking on Rocks on Sunday.
Mountaineers start their title defence against Rhinos before they engage Eagles on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, all-rounder Sean Ervine has shown interest in rejoining the national team.
Ervine was a part of a group of 15 white players who stopped playing for Zimbabwe after differences with the game’s administrators in 2003.
In an interview with IndependentSport at the launch of the Stanbic T-20 series yesterday, the Mountaineers captain said he was considering a return to the national team.
“It is something I am considering at the moment,” said Ervine. “It has been discussed before and I am weighing the pros and cons just like anybody would do before taking up any job. A lot of progress has been made both on and off the field. The people here have done a lot of work in improving both the game in the country and the performance of the national team.”
Having watched Zimbabwe’s One-Day-International series against South Africa recently, Ervine is pleased with the improved show by the national team.
He said that he had been offered a two year contract at county side Hampshire, but playing for Zimbabwe was tempting.
Unlike the last time when he played in the 20-over tournament only, Ervine will this time around feature in the longer versions of the game.
He said he will leave the country after this tournament, but would return early next year to continue playing for Mountaineers. By then, he said, he would have made up his mind on whether to play for the national team or Hampshire.
With glaring frailties in the seaming department, Ervine’s return would benefit Zimbabwe immensely.