HomeSport‘Bangla series will be closely fought’

‘Bangla series will be closely fought’

FORMER Zimbabwe all-rounder Neil Johnson has predicted a closely contested series when the Zimbabwe national cricket team tour Bangladesh next week.

Zimbabwe embarks on a five match One-Day-International series by the Asians at the back of a whitewash defeat by South Africa recently. On the other hand, their opponents are basking in the glory after winning a series over New Zealand.
However Johnson believes Zimbabwe will be a tougher team for Bangladesh than New Zealand. He noted local players’ vast talent improvement.
“It is going to be tough for both teams and in the end I think it is going to be very close,” said Johnson. “Zimbabwe has improved a lot and they seem to be getting better with each match they play. They are fighters and they certainly will come out with something in this one. Bangladesh is doing good, beating them that side (in their own backyard) will be difficult. Our batsmen are good at playing spin and we also have good spinners ourselves so it’s going to be very close and exciting.”
Johnson, now based in South Africa, is in the country for a commentary job in the current Stanbic T-20 series.
He said Zimbabwe has improved and needed to win in Bangladesh to attain recognition.
Johnson also commended the current domestic competition saying it had vastly improved owing to the inclusion of experienced foreign players.
Foreign players playing in domestic competitions are West Indies legend Brian Lara at Southern Rocks, England’s Nick Compton at Mashonaland Eagles, Kenya’s Steve Tikolo at Rocks and New Zealand’s Lou Vincent at Rhinos.
Johnson said: “It is good that these guys are here, they have forced our own boys to raise their game and the standards have improved from the last edition of the tournament (Stanbic T-20).”
He added that since the last time he was in Zimbabwe, the pool of players for selection into the national team had increased with more options in the batting department.
Johnson, however, noted the frailties in the fast bowling department, which he said coaches needed to work on.
“For any young players hoping to play for Zimbabwe, this is the best time to be a fast bowler. It is a very tough job but if they work on it they will certainly reap the rewards because the national team is in need at the moment,” he said.
Meanwhile, Southern Rocks’ Sikandar Raza from Pakistan is set to play for Zimbabwe. He has applied for Zimbabwean citizenship.
Raza, who is having a good season, has already reached an agreement with Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) to play for the national team once his papers are in order.
After scoring a remarkable 93 off 48 balls against Tuskers on Wednesday, Raza is waiting for what would be dream come true for him to play for the national team.
“I want to play for Zimbabwe and I have been waiting for that since last year,” said Raza. “I have been on top of my game this season and I know I can make a good contribution.”
ZC are currently regularising his papers with the relevant authorities so that he can assume Zimbabwean citizenship and start challenging for a place.
The 24 year old has been opening the bat for Rocks in the current Stanbic T-20 series where they have so far won one match in three.
Raza’s magnificent knock on Wednesday resulted in increased calls for him to play for Zimbabwe.
Having moved to Zimbabwe together with his family from Pakistan in 2002, Raza has been studying in Scotland where he was playing club cricket.
After the completion of his studies last year, he is ready for professional cricket.


Kevin Mapasure

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