ZIMBABWE were dealt a major blow on the eve of the opening Test match against Pakistan at Harare Sports Club this morning after middle order batsman Sean Williams withdrew from the side in protest over non-payment of his salary.
REPORT BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
The talented left-hander, who was in sublime form in Zimbabwe’s shock victory in the first ODI against Pakistan, was almost a certain starter in the home side’s middle order in both Test matches.
National team coach Andy “Bundu” Waller confirmed Williams’ withdrawal in an interview yesterday and expressed his disappointment on losing one of his key players.
“Yes, unfortunately (Sean) Williams has withdrawn from the side. When I spoke to him he said to me that he was not in the right mental state to fully focus on his game in the Tests as he has not received his salary on the promised date.
“Obviously it’s very disappointing to lose a player of Williams’ quality as he is a key member of the side batting at number five. We would have loved to have him in the side, but unfortunately we will have to find a replacement for this Test and hopefully he will be back for the second Test if everything is solved,” said Waller.
Williams’ withdrawal from the side hardly came as a surprise following threats of a player strike over match fees before the tour and then refusing to train on the eve of Saturday’s third one-day international because of unpaid monthly salaries.
Players had given Zimbabwe Cricket until yesterday to make the outstanding payments, but they had not received their dues.
The withdrawal of Williams comes as the national side welcomes back solid opener Tino Mawoyo to the side after a lengthy absence from the side.
Mawoyo who scored unbeaten 163 against Pakistan in September 2011 is expected to open the batting for Zimbabwe alongside Vusi Sibanda with Hamilton Masakadza dropping to number three.
Skipper Brendan Taylor who was expecting the birth of his child yesterday comes in at number four while Andy Waller is expected to fill the void left by Williams at number five.
Wicketkeeper Richmond Mutumbami could also make a return to allow Taylor to focus on his batting and captaincy.
Meanwhile, Pakistan were sweating over the availability of batsman Mohammed Hafeez after the all-rounder suffered a hamstring injury in the third ODI on Saturdy.
Hafeez was expected to undergo an MRI scan yesterday.
Zim probable team: Tino Mawoyo, Vusi Sibanda, Hamilton Masakadza, Brendan Taylor (captain), Malcolm Waller, Richmond Mutumbami, Elton Chigumbura, Prosper Utseya, Natsai M’shangwe, Tendai Chatara, Brian Vitori