THE Zimbabwean cricket side faces a time for reckoning when the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup starts in the sub-continent tomorrow.
It is now time for the team to show the world that that they are ready to compete with the best and that they have turned a corner after years on the descent, but critics doubt the team will make an impact at the tournament.
There is no better place to put that contestation to rest than on the World Cup stage.
Coach Alan Butcher said it was Zimbabwe’s chance to prove their mettle: “Zimbabwe cricket is on the up and hopefully we can prove that in the next six weeks,” said Butcher.
The claim comes after three key victories for Zimbabwe last year in a triangular series against Sri Lanka and India. They eventually lost to Sri Lanka in the final.
Subsequent results were somewhat morale shattering as the team fizzled out like a damp firework in South Africa and Bangladesh.
Zimbabwe face giants Australia in the 50-over format of the game in their first World Cup match.
Nick Compton who has played domestic cricket in Zimbabwe for Mashonaland Eagles this season said Butcher’s men should think more about batting through their allotted overs and negate the attack mentality.
“I think Zimbabwe should approach each match with a solid, orthodox attitude,” said Compton in an interview with IndependentSport. “My belief is that their focus should always be on batting 50 overs and achieving respectable, even challenging scores.”
But his advise and philosophy is well against what Zimbabwe has set about to do as the team has adopted an aggressive style going into this tournament.
Compton does not subscribe to that style for Zimbabwe: “Going hard early on would be disastrous for such a young and inexperienced team. If you are facing the best early on, well, negate this attack style and accumulate runs. Their old hands (Ray Price and Greg Lamb) can take the pace off the ball and concentrate on economy and discipline. Athleticism on the field and supporting and scrapping for each run will be key.”
He added that Zimbabwe needed to build a strong team spirit and be disciplined.
The goal for Zimbabwe will be to make it out of the group stages, a feat they have achieved only twice in the past.
The first was achieved in exciting fashion at the 1999 ? in England where Zimbabwe beat India and South Africa in their group to advance to the then Super Sixes stage.
Then the team had in its ranks Neil Johnson who opened both with the ball and the bat, Alistair Campbell, Henry Olonga Paul Strang and the Flower bothers Andy and Grant, among others.
Out of the 46 matches they have played at the World Cup, Zimbabwe have managed eight wins and will be looking to better that record.
The only other time they progressed through to the group stage was when they co-hosted the tournament with South Africa in 2003 after they benefitted from England’s reluctance to tour Zimbabwe at that time over security fears.