HARARE: Challenges abound on and off the field for Zimbabwe ahead of their home series against Pakistan, but former Test opener Tino Mawoyo believes the return of several batting stalwarts will lift the hosts’ spirits.
Bruised by four heavy losses to Afghanistan across two formats in Abu Dhabi last month, Zimbabwe are expected to ring in the changes when they meet Pakistan on Wednesday in the first of three Twenty20 Internationals at Harare Sports Club.
Two Test matches will follow at the same venue.
Brendan Taylor and Craig Ervine are set to return to the lineup, bolstering a batting unit which is heavily reliant on all-rounder Sean Williams.
“I think it’ll definitely bring the stability that we lacked, the experience, and I think it’ll just lift the spirit of the lads as well,” Mawoyo, now a commentator, said on Monday.
A mountain confronts the hosts, however, if they are to threaten a Pakistan side brimming with confidence after dominating South Africa at home and away.
“[Zimbabwe] will have to be almost flawless in all three departments... they cannot afford to lapse at all and allow Pakistan to take control,” said Mawoyo, who carried his bat for 163 against the Asian side in a 2011 Test. “[Pakistan] will come hard at you, and they’ll come hard at you early... however, if they don’t get early wickets and stuff doesn’t quite go their way, they do tend to flatten out a little bit.”
One example of that came in 2013, when Mawoyo and his team-mates engineered a red-ball upset against Pakistan.
“I know it’s a very long time ago, but the last time Zimbabwe took on Pakistan in a Test match in Harare, they won,” he said.
Overshadowing the return of international cricket to Zimbabwean soil after a pandemic-induced 15-month hiatus is a corruption scandal involving former head coach Heath Streak.
Streak, who was handed an eight-year ban, admitted to five breaches of the International Cricket Council anti-corruption code, including the disclosure of inside information for betting purposes and accepting a corrupt payment.
“[It is’ not ideal to have such news going into such a big series, however the lads are professional. Some of them I know have personal relationships with him [Streak], but I think they just need to focus on the job at hand,” Mawoyo said. “The boys are professional enough to know what they need to be focusing on.”
Zimbabwe, meanwhile, have announced a 15-man squad for the T20 series with Sean Williams to continue as captain in the absence of limited-overs captain Chamu Chibhabha, who also missed the previous series against Afghanistan due to an injury.
Three uncapped players batsman Tadiwanashe Marumani, paceman Tanaka Chivanga and spinner Tapiwa Mufudza have received their maiden call-ups after impressive performances in the domestic T20 tournament.
The experienced duo of Brendan Taylor and Craig Ervine are making their comeback to the squad after missing out on the last series against Afghanistan in the UAE due to health issues. The inclusion of the veterans will give a huge boost to the Zimbabwe side.
Luke Jongwe, who last played international cricket for Zimbabwe in January 2016, has also returned to the squad.
Pakistan-born all-rounder Sikandar Raza will miss out due to an upper arm injury while all of Richmond Mutumbami, Milton Shumba, Brandon Mavuta, Tarisai Musakanda, and Faraz Akram have been left out. However, Musakanda, Ainsley Ndlovu, and Bradley Evans have been placed on standby.
Zimbabwe T20 squad: Sean Williams (captain), Ryan Burl, Regis Chakabva, Tanaka Chivanga, Craig Ervine, Luke Jongwe, Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, Wessly Madhevere, Tadiwanashe Marumani, Wellington Masakadza, Tapiwa Mufudza, Blessing Muzarabani, Richard Ngarava, Brendan Taylor, Donald Tiripano.
Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2021