Has Zim jumped the gun?

HARARE - Zimbabwe Cricket sprang a slight surprise with an early announcement of the Test squad of 16 to play New Zealand in a two-match series which gets underway at the Queens Sports club in Bulawayo next week.

It wasn't the naming of the squad that came as a surprise, but the timing of the announcement, given the fact that a three-day warm up match against Zimbabwe A is still to be played.

Be that as it may the selectors took note of recent performances by allrounder Prince Masvaure, as well as Tinotenda Mawoyo, after solid performances against South Africa A in a recently concluded two-match four day series.

The selectors also took a calculated risk by including out of form players Hamilton Masakadza, who has found the going tough of late at all forms of the game, and allrounder Sikandar Raza, who has also struggled with the bat of late.

The selectors are clearly in a dilemma as to who will don the wicket keeper's gloves, with the inclusion of the country's top three wicketkeepers in Regis Chakabva, Richmond Mutumbami and the exciting but unpredictable PJ Moor.

Though should Moor be included, he would probably play as an out and out batsman, and either Chakabva or Mutumbami will do the keeping duties.

Raza's inclusion is a slightly questionable one, but should he play, he will undoubtedly have a role to play, as he and captain Graeme Cremer share the spinning duties on a pitch which has always been kind to the spinners.

The hope however, was that Tuskers spinner and captain John Nyumbu would be the second spinner, but sadly the usually reliable spinner had a torrid time against South Africa A, and the selectors more than likely feel that although out of form, Raza has more to offer as an allrounder.

The Matabeleland supporters however, do have something to cheer about with the inclusion of top order batsman Brian Chari, who showed great composure and maturity at the top of the order when he compiled a well crafted 98 against South Africa A in Harare.

Chari's temperament has always been one of the highlights of his young career, and his ability to play soundly if need be, as well as to punish the bad ball when presented may very possibly put him in good stead.

Tino Mawoyo and Chari have played together of late, and seem to understand their roles rather nicely, with Mawoyo playing the anger role, and Chari the more adventurous role.

It will also be interesting to see if the coaching staff have enough faith in Masvaure to keep him at number three, or if they would prefer the more experienced Hamilton Masakadza to bat at first drop, though personally I would like to see the coaching staff be adventurous and give the number three position to Masvaure.

Yes, it is his first Test, and the number three position is a very crucial one, but Masvaure has been scoring all his runs at number three of late, and with Craig Ervine possibly batting at number five, the two left handers will give the team a nice balance.

The bowling department will be a tricky little affaire, and one would have thought that young Victor Nyauchi would have been considered ahead of Njabulo Ncube, who has had a moderate season.

It has to be said however, that if any bowler would run in and put his body on the line for his captain Ncube would be the man he would turn too, so if selected, he may be useful at holding up an end.

In all, the selectors have pretty much gone with the squad most people expected, though you shouldn't be at all surprised to see a name in the starting 11 that wasn't included in the initial squad.

Zim Test squad: Graeme Cremer (capt), Sikandar Raza, Regis Chakabva, Brian Chari, Tendai Chatara, Chamu Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Hamilton Masakadza, Prince Masvaure, Tino Mawoyo, Peter Moor, Richmond Mutumbami, Taurai Muzarabani, Njabulo Ncube, Donald Tiripano, Sean Williams

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