Zimbabwe as ready as they can be for Pakistan litmus test in ODI series

Zimbabwe will give time to budding up-and-comers during the one-day international (ODI) series versus Pakistan, starting this Friday in Bulawayo, as they look to build a new team after failing to qualify for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.

Addressing the media on the eve of the first ODI at Queens Sports Club, Zimbabwe captain Hamilton Masakadza said the series will be a litmus test for his rebuilding side.

“I think the biggest thing is that as a country we don’t play a lot of international cricket, so there’s a lot to be gained by playing these games,” the veteran batsman said.

“We won’t be at the World Cup but it’s an opportunity to start building up for the guys who will be at the next World Cup.

“We have a lot of inexperienced guys, so it’s an opportunity to blood the new guys, give them a go and have them get the feel of what playing at the highest level is like.”

With the in-form batsman Solomon Mire and frontline pace bowler Kyle Jarvis sidelined by injury, while a few of the senior players who were part of the disastrous World Cup campaign did not avail themselves for selection, Zimbabwe are a little short on experience.

But with Masakadza himself and former captain Elton Chigumbura, Chamu Chibhabha, Peter Moor, Tendai Chatara, Donald Tiripano and Tendai Chisoro in the mix, the new-look Zimbabwe side will not be push-overs for the vastly experienced Pakistan.

In Tarisai Musakanda, Blessing Muzarabani, Wellington Masakadza and Richard Ngarava, the home side boast young and talented players who have what it takes to compete against the world’s best.

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Brian Chari and Prince Masvaure will be eager to seize their chance to impress, while the uncapped trio of Ryan Murray, Liam Roche and Tinashe Kamunhukamwe will be looking forward to making their international bow.

Masakadza said his boys were relishing the opportunity to make an impression against one of the game’s top sides.

“The opposition will always be trying to come hard at you but I think it is very exciting,” the captain said.

“It is a big opportunity for a few of the guys to have a feel of the international stage and also for a few guys that haven’t been in the team, coming back and trying to reclaim their spots. So I think it’s very exciting.

“The situation with Mire is that he sustained a bit of an injury the last game we played. They are still having a look at him but he’s very unlikely to play any part in the series.

“But there’s still a slight chance. They are assessing him, but definitely he won’t be available for the first couple of games and we’ve got at least two guys that are there as cover for the opening spots.

“We’ve got young Kamunhukamwe and also Chamu Chibhabha coming back into the one-day set-up –  they are both opening batters – and we also have Brian Chari, also an opening batter. So we definitely have enough cover upfront.”

Masakadza also commented on what it meant leading the young side.

“International cricket is the highest level. It is actually the most difficult, so there’s always an element of pressure, but having been around for as long as I have, I have learnt to embrace it and I have learnt to deal with it,” he said.

“So it probably won’t affect me as much as it would a younger guy and it’s up to me to try and help them to be able to embrace it and deal with it.

“For me there’s always pressure to put runs on the board for the team and that doesn’t change and it also spurs me to go out there and try and get the team off to a good start.”

Masakadza said the coaches were urging the players to relax, express themselves and stick to the basics.

“The game plan is pretty much to get the guys a little bit relaxed and to express themselves, not to feel too much pressure, but just try to stay relaxed, stay in the moment and take the game to the opposition,” he said.

“I think that’s the only way you can play in any sport. You have to go out there and show them who you are and what you are capable of, back yourself pretty much more than anything.”

The ODI series gets underway this Friday at Queens Sports Club, with the rest of the matches scheduled for 16, 18, 20 and 22 July at the same venue.

Zimbabwe ODI squad: Brian Chari, Tendai Chatara, Chamu Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura, Tendai Chisoro, Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, Hamilton Masakadza (captain), Wellington Masakadza, Prince Masvaure, Peter Moor, Ryan Murray, Tarisai Musakanda, Blessing Muzarabani, Richard Ngarava, Liam Roche, Donald Tiripano