After months of tussle between the board and players over non-payment, Zimbabwe finally gathered themselves to travel for the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh. (Getty Images)
After months of tussle between the board and players over non-payment, Zimbabwe finally gathered themselves to travel for the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.
Seven years ago, the Test minnows from Africa made waves in the format when they beat the mighty Australia at the inaugural edition of the World Twenty20 held in South Africa in 2007. But it's been downhill since then, including withdrawal from the 2009 edition.
Zimbabwe have never gone farther than the group stage at a World Twenty20, and this year there's an added burden.
As two bottom-most Test teams in ICC T20 rankings, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe will join six Associates in an eight-team qualifying phase. Divided into two groups of four each, teams will play against each other in their respective group. Teams finishing top in the two groups will advance to the main round called Super 10.
Zimbabwe are in Group B of the qualifying round with Ireland, Netherlands and UAE. Group A consists of hosts Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Nepal.
Here's a brief look at how the Zimbabweans shape up:
Strengths: Bangladesh have a number of slow bowlers in the squad, including the surprise recall of legspinner Tafadzwa Kamungozi who last played for the national team in 2006. Elton Chigumbura has been one of the better performers and his all-round skills and slow-medium bowling can prove to be an asset.
Weaknesses: Zimbabwe haven't played a single match since September last year, with even the domestic setup coming to a halt amid players' strike. Lack of match practice, thus, could prove to be their undoing even if they manage to cross the qualifying phase. However, Bangladesh Premier League experience of Hamilton Masakadza and Sean Williams may come handy.
Past performances at World Twenty20:
2007: Zimbabwe had their best time in the event's inaugural edition played in South Africa. Riding on Brendan Taylor's 64 off 46 balls, they stunned Australia in the tournament opener by 5 wickets but lost the other match in their group to England by a huge margin of 50 runs. And Australia's big win over England pushed Zimbabwe to the third spot in the group, bringing their campaign to an end.
2009: Zimbabwe withdrew their participation.
2010: The venue was England. Zimbabwe were placed alongside Sri Lanka and New Zealand in one of the four groups. Zimbabwe went on to lose both their matches to crash out of the tournament.
2012: The third edition proved to be a replay of 2010. Placed in Group C with South Africa and the hosts Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe failed to win even a single game.
Chances this year: The Zimbabweans will definitely want to avoid the embarrassment of lagging behind any of the Associate teams and prove that they belong to the group of top ten cricket nations. Therefore, qualifying for the main round seems the only achievable objective for the group in Bangladesh. But they face a realistic threat from Ireland in their group that have upset big teams in the past.
Squad: Brendan Taylor (captain), Hamilton Masakadza, Prosper Utseya, Elton Chigumbura, Sean Williams, Malcolm Waller, Vusi Sibanda, Sikander Raza Butt, Brian Vitori, Tendai Chatara, Natsai M'shangwe, Shingirai Masakadza, Timycen Maruma, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, Tinashe Panyangara.
March 17 - Zimbabwe vs Ireland, Sylhet Stadium
March 19 - Zimbabwe vs Netherlands, Sylhet Stadium
March 21 - Zimbabwe vs, Sylhet Stadium