The Sunday Mail
THE 2022–2023 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Africa Qualifier is set to be Sikandar Raza’s first official assignment as senior men’s cricket national team captain, and the stakes could not have been higher for the 37-year-old all-rounder.
On the surface, this looks to be an easy assignment, as the Chevrons go into the tournament as clear favourites.
They only need a top-two finish to book their ticket for next year’s World Cup, which will be held in the West Indies and the United States.
Zimbabwe, who leave for Namibia today, will slug it out against Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Namibia.
However, if the Chevrons’ recent tour to Namibia is anything to go by, then there is no such thing as an easy task.
With the next 50-over World Cup in 2027 all but guaranteed by virtue of Zimbabwe co-hosting, all eyes will be on next year’s T20 format.
Zimbabwe recently lost 2-3 to a fringe Namibia side, going so far as to fail to chase down 100 runs in the decider.
The Chevrons do not also have a good history with pressure situations and World Cups.
The team failed to qualify for the 2023 edition of the 50-over World Cup, which ends today when hosts India come up against perennial finalists Australia in Ahmedabad.
They did not participate in the 2021 T20 World Cup because Zimbabwe Cricket was suspended by the ICC.
At the 2022 edition, they topped their group in the first round but finished last — sixth — in their Super 12 grouping and failed to automatically qualify for 2024.
And, yes, there is also the fact that for Raza, this tournament will be his first official assignment as captain. He will want to get his reign off to a positive start. Raza was cool, calm and collected on the eve of the team’s departure to Namibia.
“Maybe this is what Allah planned or, maybe, it is the time that he decided for me to lead, so who am I to say,” said the skipper on his captaincy.
“What is important for me now is to get the best out of everybody, not just myself.
“That is an area that I feel strongly about,” he said.
Raza believes the key to their success in Namibia will be to trust their skills and preparations.
“We need to trust each other, believe that everybody will do their job, and that together we will get the job done for Zimbabwe,” said the talisman.
“There are many followers globally, supporting and praying for us, and we need to do this for them.
“Everything comes with pressure but there were plenty of lessons from our recent trip to Namibia.
“We familiarised ourselves with the facilities, wickets, the outfield and the ground.
“All these should work to our advantage.”
Aiding Raza’s quest is the return of another all-rounder, Sean Williams, who missed out on the preparatory T20 series against Namibia, together with batter Craig Ervine and fast bowler Tendai Chatara.
Lanky seamer Blessing Muzarabani — another absentee in the recent tour of Namibia — has recovered from a right-hand fracture.
However, fast bowler Bradley Evans remains absent from the team as he is still recovering from shin splints.
“There were a number of new guys whom we took on that tour for the first time to give them exposure, as we want to widen our pool of players,” said Raza.
“So, the short-term goal was to win, but we had that as a long-term objective as well.
“There were plenty of good things that were achieved, but, because we did not win, not many people managed to see that.”