New look Zimbabwean squad is strong and well balanced

Posted by admin on December 19, 2008

Zimbabwe have made it a habit to pick smokeys in the cricket squads, with Cephus Zhuwawo and Friday Kasteni being the most notable. Sadly, neither had any success, but that looks set to change with the inclusion of Malcolm Waller in a new look squad set to take on Bangladesh and Sri Lanka next month.

Bradley Staddon has built a profile for himself in recent times, starting with Zimbabwe A selection in 2006 and a solid Logan Cup performance last season, which led me to believe he would be the next surprise selection. But after a very impressive 3/46 against the touring Sri Lankan side last month, Malcolm Waller has leapfrogged Staddon at the selection table.

Many familiar with Zimbabwean cricket will recognise the name Waller - Malcolm is the son of former international batsman Andy Waller. Malcolm is a batting allrounder who has experienced some success in the domestic one day competitions. His 68 for Harare Sports Club against Uprising in late September was the highest known score in the Vigne Cup competition for the season, ahead of Clement Rizhibowa's twin 61's for Uprising against Alexandra and Old Hararians.

Also earning a call up is promising wicket keeper batsman Forster Mutizwa, who has recorded two First Class centuries in his 11 matches to date.

Chamu Chibhabha, who has been one of Zimbabwe's most consistent batsmen over the past 3 years, has been dropped after a recent form slump. Regis Chakabva has also been omitted, perhaps unfairly, after having been overlooked for selection throughout the entire Sri Lanka series.

Tatenda Taibu retains his spot in the squad, reported by the Canadian Press, despite an ongoing legal dispute with a ZC employee. The most important inclusion is that of Sean Williams, who will undoubtly bat in the top order now that Chibhabha is not in the squad. The spin department is strong, spearheaded by Ray Price, who took 4/104 at an economy of 3.46 over 30 overs against Sri Lanka in the recently played series. Prosper Utseya was also very economical, conceding just 3.20 runs an over in his 34 overs bowled. The biggest challenge for Utseya next month will be to make wise captaincy decisions.

Graeme Cremer is the backup spinner in the squad. No doubt he is among the top 11 cricketers in the country, but due to the strength of the spin department his outings may be limited. Timycen Maruma, presumably still injured after his collission with Chibhabha in the Sri Lanka series, doesn't make the squad - but did play as the third spinner in some games, setting a possible precedent for Cremer.

The seam bowling is looking as strong as it has since the 2007 World Twenty20, with Tawanda Mupariwa in fine form, Ed Rainsford slowly getting back to his best with 3/22 in the 5th ODI, while Elton Chigumbura was among the top 4 wicket takers against Sri Lanka (behind Mendis, Muralitharan and Mupariwa).

The only question now, is who will coach the squad? The Zimbabwe Independent reports that it is down to four; Colin Siller, Kevin Curran, Stephen Mangongo and Walter Chawaguta. Clearly there are not masses knocking on the door for the position. Chawaguta has proven that he is not up to the task, while Mangongo and Siller are severely lacking in the "playing experience" department. Curran has coached the national side before but was more intent on putting in respectable performances than match winning ones (an attitude which quickly changed under Robin Brown), but he is the best of a bad bunch, and maybe a second time around under a more experienced playing group, Kevin Curran could become a very good coach for Zimbabwe.

Overall, a fantastic squad has been picked by the selectors. Well done to Kenyon Ziehl, Jackie du Preez and Vumi Moyo (if they are still the selectors). Every one of these players, even the uncapped selections, should be able to cash in against a weak Bangladesh team and give Sri Lanka a scare - providing the coach or captain doesn't try anything silly.

Zimbabwe XI (possible): H. Masakadza, V. Sibanda, S. Williams, T. Taibu (wk), M. Waller, E. Chigumbura, K. Dabengwa, P. Utseya (c), R. Price, T. Mupariwa, E. Rainsford (12th: G. Cremer)

Zimbabwe squad: Prosper Utseya (c), Hamilton Masakadza, Tatenda Taibu (wk), Ray Price, Sean Williams, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Elton Chigumbura, Vusi Sibanda, Tawanda Mupariwa, Keith Dabengwa, Edward Rainsford, Graeme Cremer, Christopher Mpofu, Forster Mutizwa (wk), Malcolm Waller.