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Zimbabwe cricket is on the up, 'only six weeks to prove it'

by Byo24NEWS
10 Feb 2011 at 10:17hrs | Views
Zimbabwe's goal during the upcoming World Cup is "to make sure we play as well as we can." That's the mantra coach Alan Butcher brought with him to the team's arrival press conference in Chennai. "We haven't set any targets regarding the quarter-finals," he said.

For a team that has progressed out of the group stages only once and has won just eight of 46 World Cup matches, that ambition seems to fit just right. Zimbabwe are among the stronger of the minnow teams but will have to beat at least one of the big names as well as earn convincing victories over Kenya and Canada if they hope to progress. For them, the results are not as important as the method. "If we can play five out of six games to our plans and to our targets, it will represent a good step forward for our team," Butcher said.

Butcher brings with him a team whose last notable World Cup achievement came in 1999, when Zimbabwe beat India and South Africa to advance to the Super Six stage of the tournament. The team that took to the field then formed what was considered the old guard of Zimbabwean cricket, with the likes of the Flower brothers, Alistair Campbell, Heath Streak and Henry Olonga. Those glory days, just like the Springsteen song says, have passed them by in the wink of a young girl's eye.

Now there's a team of young hopefuls, the Chris Mpofus and Charles Coventrys of the country who have big talent and big hearts but a lot to learn. "We've got some way to go to say that we are back at that level (of 1999) but there is every reason to think that that can happen in the future," Butcher said. This World Cup is more about planning for that future than anything else.

"Zimbabwean cricket is in the process of a turnaround," Butcher said. "They have gone through a period of poor results and difficult times for the players. At the moment, everyone is working very hard not only in this squad but in the first-class system to improve themselves." Since voluntarily withdrawing from Test cricket, Zimbabwe have pumped resources into their limited-overs formats, which has included a sponsored twenty-over franchise competition that has attracted the likes of Andrew Hall, Lance Klusener and Brian Lara.

"He (Lara) helped us a lot and shared some of his experience with us while he was working with us as a batting consultant," Elton Chigumbura, the Zimbabwe captain, said. "The guys are ready to express themselves during this World Cup, show how they can play and win a couple of games." Zimbabwe have every reason to be positive because it was just last June that they qualified for their first tri-series final in 10 years, albeit against second string Indian and Sri Lankan sides.

It's the preparation in and against teams for the subcontinent that will serve Zimbabwe best in this tournament. In December, they played against Bangladesh in a five match ODI series, and in the last two years have played in Dhaka and Chittagong 10 times. "There are players with experience of the conditions from when we played in Bangladesh," Butcher said. "We've been playing and practicing in Dubai as well, where they've tried to simulate Indian wickets."

Zimbabwe also have a strong arsenal of spinners to make up for their lack of firepower in the fast bowling department, which could serve them well in the subcontinent. "The balance of our attack will be favoured by the conditions here. There's a fair chance we will go with more than a couple of spinners which puts us at less of a disadvantage." Butcher said.

The search for the next Zimbabwean quick or the next batsman in the Andy Flower mould is still on, but Butcher is convinced that the 15 men he has to work with now will be the start of a permanent turnaround in the fortunes of the team that has for so long been the little brother of African cricket. He hopes the World Cup can help them to illustrate that point. "Zimbabwe cricket is on the up and hopefully we can prove that in the next six weeks."

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Source - ESPN

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