ZC lands morale-boosting PPC partnership

HARARE - The stage is set for some gruelling battles for the remaining two World Cup slots for England 2019 when Zimbabwe host the ICC WC Qualifiers beginning on March 4.

Zimbabwe Cricket chairperson Tavengwa Mukuhlani has reiterated that qualifying for these games is non-negotiable and the boys need to be at their best in order to achieve this feat at home.

The locals host the 10-team qualifiers starting on March 4 in three cities Harare, Bulawayo and Kwekwe and across five venues; Harare Sports Club, Old Hararians, Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo Athletic Club and Kwekwe Sports Club.

“Of course we have no other expectation other than qualifying. We have to qualify, there’s no option...we have done everything possible to prepare the team in terms of qualifying for the 2019 World Cup, so we are expecting nothing short of qualification,” Mukuhlani told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday.

Zimbabwe are in Group B along with Afghanistan, Nepal, Scotland and Hong Kong, and will open their campaign against Nepal at the Queens Sports Club on March 4.

Although the team was accorded more game time that saw them taking part in a Tri-Nation series in Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates series against Afghanistan, they struggled to make an impression in both outings.

In Bangladesh, the Heath Streak-coached side managed to win only one match against Sri Lanka and were nowhere near getting into the final while in UAE, Afghanistan mercilessly beat Zimbabwe 2-0 in the two-match Twenty20 series and 4-1 in the five-match One Day International series.

“The performance has not been what we expected but of course it’s a building phase. Obviously the technical team has been looking at other players, trying new combinations,” Mukuhlani added.

“We will obviously see a different team when they take on their opponents in the qualifiers and we expect to see an improvement of course taking advantage of the home conditions so we expect a better performance.”

Mukuhlani said Zimbabwe will not be intimidated on the sight of Afghanistan given the UAE debacle.

“Not really, I think the conditions are totally different. The conditions are totally different; the conditions in Sharjah are totally different with the conditions back home. A few bad decisions against our team- not that we are making excuses,” Mukuhlani said.

“We didn’t even have DRS (Decision Review System) so there was no room for appeal against some of those decisions but I don’t think the guys are under a lot of pressure seeing that they are with Afghanistan.

“They expected to be with Afghanistan in the same group during the qualifiers and I think it’s a question of them rising to a different level, they are able to beat Afghanistan on a different day.”

The technical team made last minute changes into their provisional 15-man squad bringing in all-rounder Sean Williams and batsman Cephas Zhuwao in place of Ryan Burl and Tarisai Musakanda “two good inclusions” according to the chairperson.

“I think Sean (Williams) is a quality player, he’s a match winner, he brings in the batting, he brings in the bowling and he’s naturally a competitive athlete. It’s a pity that he has not been in the side, we are happy that he’s back in the side,” Mukuhlani said.

“Cephas (Zhuwao) has done well during the Kenya tour to Zimbabwe, the A side, a real ball-hitter. WE have been struggling with our opening as you have noticed and I think as I said they will be changes to the team and I hope the inclusion of Sean and Cephas will add more stability and more quality to the side but two good inclusions in the side.”

Meanwhile, the team got a boost ahead of the qualifiers after local cement manufacturing company unveiled uniform kit sponsorship to be used during the games.

“I believe that our association with the PPC makes for a dynamic partnership and will help us to raise our profile as a stable and structured sporting organisation with a bright future,” he said.

“We are gathered here today to witness the birth of a partnership that will look at the building blocks of cricket in our country,” Mukuhlani said during the sponsorship unveiling ceremony at Harare Sports Club on Friday.

Guest of honour, Sports minister Kazembe Kazembe also paid tribute to the corporates such as PPC who are coming on board to support sport.

“When I look at the sporting community in Zimbabwe today, I see more than people participating in sport. I see bona fide sports consumers, people who are passionately engaged in sports as players, volunteers and spectators. I see people consuming sports leisure, for health, for business and to challenge themselves...our increasing consumption of sport at all levels and cricket in particular has not gone unnoticed by the corporate world.”

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