HAMILTON Masakadza is a relieved man. After 14 years on the international cricket scene, the top order batsman was finally picked up for the 2015 International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup that starts next month in Australia and New Zealand.
Masakadza, who made his debut in 2001, missed the mega event in 2003, 2007 and 2011, but has finally won over the selectors and new coach Dav Whatmore.
Perhaps the only surprise inclusion was that of Prosper Utseya while seamer Tawanda Mupariwa and batsman Chamu Chibhabha were also named in the final squad. Sean Williams was recalled to the squad after being omitted from the squad for the recent Bangladesh tour.
Utseya was a major doubt for the global showpiece after recently being banned from bowling his off-break deliveries, but the selection panel backed the seasoned off-spinner to make an impact at the global showpiece.
Zimbabwe Cricket selection convener Givemore Makoni said he was confident the 29-year-old, who captained Zimbabwe on their last World Cup campaign, still had what it takes to compete at the highest level.
“Those who had an opportunity to come and watch him play yesterday (Tuesday) know that Prosper is still bowling. He bowled well and had very good figures conceding 21 runs in his 10 overs.
“I’d define him as our mystery spinner; he’s bowling some slow mediums, spin and cutters. I’m sure he’s still effective in his role. He’s played 160 ODI games, he’s got experience, he’s not a big turner of the ball but he’s effective and that is why we have included him,” Makoni said.
All-rounder Elton Chigumbura will lead the experienced squad which features seven players who played at the last ICC World Cup held in India.
The trio of Stuart Matsikenyeri, Chibhabha and Mupariwa were rewarded after their brilliant individual performances in Zimbabwe A’s win against the Canadians at Harare Sports Club on Tuesday.
Mupariwa also impressed with Zimbabwe A in Bangladesh in their last tour in Asia.
Opening batsman Chibhabha put on a stellar batting performance, scoring a blistering 155 off just 146 balls in a memorable innings that included 12 fours and five sixes.
Mupariwa, who has been a consistent performer at domestic level, also looks set for his first appearance for the national team in five years after an inspired four-wicket spell against the Canadians. Matsikenyeri, who recently made a comeback from retirement, also starred in the same match with a well-played half-century to continue his strong start to the season. As widely expected, there was no surprise recall for experienced top order batsman Vusi Sibanda who was excluded due to poor form.
Sibanda was named as one of the five non-travelling reserves together with Malcolm Waller, John Nyumbu, Cephas Zhuwao and Brian Vitori.
Australia-based all-rounder Solomon Mire was also rewarded with a World Cup slot after a solid performance on his debut tour with the national team in Bangladesh.
Whatmore, who is also part of the selection panel, said he was happy with the composition of the squad and was looking to come up with a settled squad of 11 players.
“I’m very pleased with the squad. What we are trying to do is to see who are the best 11 and once we have that we will look to pick players who can cover if anything happens to that best player in the 11. In our own minds we know who are best 11 is,” he said.
The veteran coach, who is eyeing a quarter-final place at the global showpiece admitted he was hoping to bring a winning culture in the team.
“The objective is to be really competitive against good opposition, teams that are ranked above us and most teams are. We have to try and stay in the game for as long as possible and if we do that we are going to win games,” he said.
Zimbabwe are placed in Pool B at the World Cup, alongside defending champions India, Pakistan, South Africa, United Arab Emirates (UAE), West Indies and Ireland.
They open their campaign against neighbours South Africa at the Seddon Park in Hamilton on February 15 and then play UAE at the Saxton Oval in Nelson four days later.
Squad: Elton Chigumbura, Sikandar Raza Butt, Regis Chakabva, Tendai Chatara, Chamunorwa Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, Hamilton Masakadza, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Solomon Mire, Tawanda Mupariwa, Tinashe Panyangara, Brendan Taylor, Prosper Utseya, Sean Williams
Non-travelling reserves: John Nyumbu, Vusimuzi Sibanda, Malcolm Waller, Cephas Zhuwao