|Sunday, 01 December 2013 00:00|
A degree of normalcy is set to descend on the Zimbabwe cricket landscape, as the country’s premier franchise league finally kicks off this Saturday, starting with the Pro 50 Championship.
Both matches will be played this Saturday for the Pro 50 Championship at Harare Sports Club and Kwekwe Sports Club respectively.
The teams will then square off again in the four-day Logan Cup from 9-12 December.
However, if the opening set of fixtures are anything to go by then one can expect more drama than entertainment, as the off-season transfers are expected to set the tone from the onset.
Among the many attractions of the opening round is the return of Mash Eagles stalwart Mark Vermeulen, the fate of players like Chamu Chibhabha, Sikander Raza Butt, Foster Mutizwa and Brian Vitori.
Movement by any of these players could see a paradigm shift in the cricket landscape.
A large chunk of the team’s core have either left or continue to refuse to commit, chief among them are the likes of Christopher Mpofu, who has been offered a play-as-you-earn contract, while the likes of Charles Coventry, Keegan Meth, Craig Ervine and Glen Querl have have since left.
Skipper Gavin Ewing has relinquished his captaincy and will only take part in the shorter version of the game.
The five players were an integral part of Tuskers’ three championship seasons, with Mpofu, Meth and Querl doing damage with the ball while Ewing, Coventry and Ervine led with the bat.
Another champion will be up against them, as Mashonaland Eagles have set targets of retaining their Pro50 title while improving in the Logan Cup.
“We are pretty excited about our prospects this time around, and chief on our priority list will be improving our longer version form while we target the Pro 50 Championship yet again.
“We last won the Logan Cup back in 2009 but our form in that format has since gone downhill from there. Last year we anchored the Log Cup table and it was a blemish in an otherwise good season in which we finished the Twenty20 league undefeated and also went on to win the Pro50 Championship.
“So it’s pretty easy to set goals and in that regard the Pro50 Championship will be a top priority, this and a better showing in Logan Cup which is the business -of the day,” said chief executive Vimbai Mapukute.
However, just like Tuskers, Eagles’ run up to the opener has not been with hiccups as they faced an exodus of their own.
On their way out are the trio of Chamu Chibhabha, Innocent Chinyoka and seasoned veteran Foster Mutizwa.
Mutizwa and Chinyoka have rumored to be headed to Mountaineers while Chibhabha’s fate, while yet confirmed, is also alleged to be headed to Tuskers.
“I can indeed confirm, more or less, that Mutizwa and Chinyoka will not be in our books as they appeared unhappy with the contracts we offered them and I have since heard that they have signed or are in midst of signing for Mountaineers.
“I am yet to hear of the Chibhabha fate but odds are we may have also lost him,” she said.
This is on top of Sikander Raza Butt finally committing to the club.
Chief executive Kenyon Zeihl could just be the happiest man amongst his colleagues as Rhinos seem to have been unfazed by the pre-season movements.
“We have retained the core of our team in Vusumuzi Sibanda, Brendan Taylor, Edward Rainsford and Malcolm Waller and this will be strengthen by a couple of upcoming and rookie players we intend to introduce during the course of the season.
‘We have identified a few players from the surrounding Kwekwe, Chegutu and Kadoma suburbs and introducing them into franchise cricket will be top priority.
“This is not to say that we do not want a trophy for that will always be a goal. Our aim this time is in the shorter version of the game, chiefly the Pro 50 Championship,’ he said.