Zimbabwe’s World Cup hopes doomed

The 2014 Twenty-20 cricket World Cup is around the corner and while all other participating nations have started priming themselves up, Zimbabwean preparations have been shambolic amid crippling financial woes.

Kevin Mapasure

The domestic season, which falls far short of adequately preparing the national team for such an event of such magnitude though it would have helped in some way, has had its start dates shifted and shuffled several times, with hopes it will take place waning.

South Africa are currently hosting Pakistan, at the back of other series in all formats in Dubai; India have an engagement with the West Indies; the Ashes has just started and the two nations will also play a One-Day-International series and a T-20; New Zealand is in Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile Zimbabwean players are either sitting idle at home or practising in the nets with the batsmen flattering themselves against predominantly school boys.
The latest information is that the domestic league could start on December 7 as Zimbabwe Cricket desperately waits for funding.

The countries that Zimbabwe will play in the pre-tournament qualifier in Bangladesh from March 16 are all engaged in their preliminary round of qualifiers and are exposed to much competitive cricket.

Having recorded rare success when they defeated Pakistan in a Test match at the back of an ODI win and another win in a lost T-20 series, all the gains which the team would have built on are likely to go to waste.

Worst still Zimbabwe could suffer the ignominy of climbing down from a Test win against super powers Pakistan to an embarrassing early exit at the hands of non-Test playing minnows at the global showcase.

The latest ICC T-20 team rankings place Zimbabwe at 15th below associate nations Kenya, Scotland, Netherlands, Ireland and Afghanistan.
Zimbabwe could face the Netherlands and Afghanistan in their qualification group.

Memories still linger of Zimbabwe’s embarrassing display at the last T-20 World Cup in Sri Lanka where they suffered heavy defeats to the hosts and South Africa, and were the first to be eliminated.

Coach Andy Waller has demanded that a T-20 domestic tournament be played before the squad is selected for the world cup, but chances of that taking place are slim.

Zimbabwe will need to come up with a squad by January 16 but without any action on the domestic front, it will be difficult for selectors to make the right choices.

A few of the senior players, Vusi Sibanda, Brendan Taylor, Elton Chigumbura, Sikandar Raza and Hamilton Masakadza have been kept busy in the Dakar Premier League (50 over format), but that is only club cricket.

But their experience in Bangladesh where the World Cup will be hosted will be useful as they would not require acclimatisation.

Zimbabwean players have generally struggled playing away from home, particularly on the sub-continent.

ZC cannot sanction the start of the domestic league because the body does not have funds finance franchise players’ contracts; they cannot pay for accommodation for travelling teams and there is not enough equipment.

The franchises have not received their grants.

The franchises have been all going through their training sessions having negotiated contracts with players but no players have signed anything because there is no money.

Some players have struggled to make it to all training sessions because they can no longer afford transport costs with nothing trickling into their pockets.

Some players particularly from English Counties who had registered interest in coming to play in some of the franchises, which would have helped in strengthening the league, but they probably have to look elsewhere for action.

The upcoming World Cup is important for Zimbabwe in many ways. To start with it is the biggest source of funds for the local game where sponsors have absconded.

ZC will benefit from a large cake and it would offset some of their financial problems.

After shelving a home series against Sri Lanka which was had been scheduled for August due to financial problems, the future of the game hinges on their participation at the global showcase, that is why it is more important than any other time for them to play at the main stage of the show and go as far as possible to improve the dire situation.

The triangular series against Australia and South Africa set for mid-next year will also bring in some profits as is expected of their Test series against the Proteas.

But Zimbabwe will need to provide evidence that they can compete for it the series to realise full financial potential.

Andy Waller’s men need to play well and prove a point, there is always nagging doubt about their ability and this is the stage where they can show that they deserve more respect.

Zimbabwe will have to win their Group B qualifier against the yet to be determined three associate members for them to join England, New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka in Group 1 of the tournament proper.

Two nations from each Group will advance to the semi-final stages.

Zimbabwe’s hopes of causing any upsets, which they have shown they are capable of, are teetering on the edges of none, with such shambolic preparations for such a prestigious and lucrative tournament.