THE Zimbabwe national cricket team leaves for the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup tomorrow with one aim — to reach the last eight.
They have been pooled in Group B with heavyweights South Africa, India, Pakistan, West Indies, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ireland and open their campaign on February 15 against their southern African neighbours.
There is a new buzz of excitement in camp after that humiliation at the hands of Bangladesh last year. Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) swiftly moved on to appoint an experienced former player, Dav Whatmore, to oversee the country’s fortunes in Australia and New Zealand.
There has not been much in terms of preparations, save for the domestic league, but we want to believe that Zimbabwe are the dark horses in this tournament and have players with the capability to reach the quarter-finals.
Of the 16 one-day internationals they played last year, nine were against Bangladesh and Afghanistan — not quite an ideal situation for us, but we still believe.
Without attempting to pile pressure on the team, victories against Ireland and UAE are a must in addition to an upset against one of the traditional giants.
At such tournaments, sometimes form does not count for much, but the performance of the West Indies in South Africa must be giving Zimbabwe some really head-ups to reach their goal. The West Indies though are a tricky team on their day, but are still beatable.
But we believe in our own talents — debutant Hamilton Masakadza must show what we have been missing at past World Cups as he finally makes his bow. He will obviously be under a bit of pressure to perform on his debut, but he has the temperament for the big event.
Skipper Elton Chigumbura, Test captain Brendan Taylor, off-spinner Prosper Utseya and Sean Williams must use their experience to give Zimbabwe some leverage. Utseya has been the talisman of late — forget the ICC ban for illegal bowling.
He has been cleared to bowl. His off-spin remains illegal, but he can still cause serious damage with both bat and ball.
Tendai Chatara, Solomon Mire, Tawanda Mupariwa, Craig Ervine, Sikandar Raza, Regis Chakabva, Chamu Chibhabha, Tafadzwa Kamungozi and Stuart Matsikenyeri complete the list of the Zimbabwe players whom we expect to do us proud.
In 2011, Zimbabwe beat lowly-placed teams in Canada and Kenya and what we ask for now is for the boys to pull up their game a little and beat one of the giants there, while ensuring that they win against the UAE and Ireland at all costs.
The opening match against South Africa is critical as it will surely set the tone, given the current form of our neighbours, but we need to go with a mentality that we can overcome. That will make the second and third matches much easier for us.
We believe in the players and the technical expertise that ZC has harnessed into this venture and we do believe we can do it.