One upset could make Zimbabwe’s trip worthwhile

HARARE — Since their Super-Six appearances in the 1999 and 2003 World Cups, Zimbabwe have seen a great dip in their fortunes and they are going into this edition with hopes that they at least succeed against Ireland and United Arab Emirates in their group.

Their progression past the first round looks highly improbable given the presence of India, South Africa, Pakistan and the West Indies, but if Zimbabwe can stun one of these big teams it will be considered a successful World Cup for Elton Chigumbura’s men.

Group: Pool B

Captain: Elton Chigumbura

Strengths
For a team ranked 10th in the ICC one-day international (ODI) rankings, it’s difficult to pinpoint what its strengths are. Stacked up against the bowling, it can be said that Zimbabwe’s batsmen pose a bigger threat.

The likes of Chigumbura, Hamilton Masakadza, Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams are of international quality and with a bit more consistency this team could test their opponents.

Hamilton Masakadza

Hamilton Masakadza

In the bowling department, medium-pacers Tendai Chatara and Tinashe Panyangara have the capability of creating trouble.

Weaknesses
Inexperience of playing against top opponents is what ails Zimbabwe. Of the 16 ODIs they played in the last year, nine were against Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

While most big teams have been in action during the lead-up to the World Cup, Zimbabwe played their last ODI on December 1 2014 and will not play another before their World Cup opener against South Africa on February 15 which is not an ideal situation for any team.

X-factor
With almost 5 000 runs studded with six tons and 31 50s in 161 matches, 28-year-old Taylor could breathe life into Zimbabwe’s campaign. Taylor has an excellent temperament and can craft his innings nicely. if there is a need to accelerate, he can do that too. The team would dearly hope that their best batsman is in his element in the 14-nation tournament.

Dark horse
Prosper Utseya has been through a lot recently. The offspinner was reported for a suspect bowling action after the third ODI against South Africa in Bulawayo in August.

Zimbabwe continued playing him and Utseya took a hat-trick against South Africa in the following triangular series and then took two for 45 and made 30 not out to help his team stun Australia in the same series. A ban followed in October and in December last year he was cleared to bowl again after testing on his action, however; his offspin remained illegal.

Prosper Utseya

Prosper Utseya

Utseya now can only bowl medium-pacers and it will be interesting to see whether he will be able to do any damage with that. Despite the handicap, the experienced Utseya, having played 160 ODIs, shouldn’t be underestimated.

ODI form guide (last six months):
Lost 5-0 to Bangladesh (Away)

Failed to reach the tri-series final. Lost three matches out of four (Home)

Lost 3-0 to South Africa (Home)

What they did at the 2011 World Cup
Zimbabwe were pooled in Group A alongside Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Kenya, and with two wins against the latter two and four defeats, they failed to make it to the knockouts.

Squad
Regis Chakabva (wk), Tendai Chatara, Chamu Chibhabha, Elton Chigumbura (capt), Craig Ervine, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, Hamilton Masakadza, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Solomon Mire, Tawanda Mupariwa, Tinashe Panyangara, Sikandar Raza, Brendan Taylor (wk), Prosper Utseya, Sean Williams

Fixtures
Zim v SA, Feb 15 at Hamilton

Zim v UAE, Feb 19 at Nelson

Zim v WI, Feb 24 at Canberra

Zim v Pak, Mar 1 at Brisbane

Zim v Ire, Mar 7 at Hobart

Zim v Ind, Mar 14 at Auckland

— Cricinfo

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