FORMER Zimbabwe national cricket team batsman Stuart Carlisle has said that Zimbabwe should have no excuses at the 2011 International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup as the team has gained enough international experience to be competitive.
Carlisle, who briefly captained the national team in 2002, said that the team is in a position to fare better after being placed in a relatively easier pool.
Zimbabwe are in the same pool as Kenya, Canada, Australia, New Zealand , Pakistan and Sri Lanka where the top four teams advance to the next stage.
India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will host the global showcase. The ICC World Cup begins in the sub-continent on February 19 and runs until April 25. Carlisle believes the Allan Butcher coached side is now ripe and should be competitive enough.
“I think there should be no excuses. It has been almost six years since this team has been together and most of the guys in the squad have been around for a long time,” said Carlisle. “A few years ago we’d say the guys are young and inexperienced, but the same can’t be said now. We should start getting good results.”
Carlisle played 111 One-Day-Internationals for Zimbabwe and is one of the 15 players who quit international cricket after a dispute with the administrators in 2004. The exodus by the experienced players left the administrators with little option, but to throw the inexperienced players into the deep end.
Some of the players who include Prosper Utseya, Tatenda Taibu, Elton Chigumbura and Brendan Taylor have formed the core of the team since the departure of the “rebels”.
He said that the team’s spin department will be key to the success at the World Cup because of the nature of Asian pitches which relatively turn a lot.
In the last few years, Zimbabwe has been involved in many tours in the sub-continent, particularly against Bangladesh.
Carlisle said: “We have very impressive spinners and that will be key at this world Cup because it’s in Asia. It should work to our advantage that we have Raymond Price and Prosper in the team as well as the other guys that travelled. It will depend on the tactics that they will employ that side but it will be quite an interesting World Cup because no one is really standing out at the moment. Everyone has a good chance.”
The former opening batsman impressed upon Zimbabwe to win their matches against the associate members, namely Kenya and Canada, and hope to upset one of the full member nations.
He lamented the inconsistency in the batting department and the absence of bowlers who can apply early pressure and take wickets.
His former team-mate in the national team Dirk Viljoen echoed the same sentiments, but expressed optimism that under fire captain and frontline bowler Chigumbura will regain his form at tournament.
“Maybe his three wickets against Netherlands are a sign of good things to come, his performance will be key to our ambitions,” said Viljoen.
The former all-rounder, who was part of the Zimbabwe team that sprung a few surprises to storm into the Super-Sixes at the 1999 World Cup in England, said that Chigumbura was working on his technique with batting coach Grant Flower.
Like Carlisle, Viljoen said that the sub-continent conditions favoured Zimbabwe more than any of their pool opponents.
“A lot of countries generally struggle in the sub-continent. Recently both Australia and New Zealand struggled there so this sort of gives us an edge. We have a strong spin department and they (Zimbabwe) will find Asian conditions favourable. These are exciting times for Zimbabwe. I think we have a good chance of progressing out from our pool.
“Brendan Taylor holds the key as he has been our best batsman in the past year and it’s good that he is getting the runs in the warm-up matches. That will keep his confidence high going into the opening match against Australia,” added Viljoen.
He said the senior guys in the team will have to stand out and be consistent if the team is to progress past the first stage.
Former captain Taibu is one of the players that have been performing well for the team as has been Craig Ervine in the middle order of late.
The batsmen have been working with Brian Lara at the ICC High Performance Centre in Dubai looking to improve on their technique.