BY KEVIN MAPASURE
Zimbabwe national cricket team captain Sean Williams has challenged his team to perform at the highest level in their two match Test series against hosts Afghanistan early next month.
The first Test begins on March 2 in the United Arab Emirates and despite being a relatively inexperienced side, Williams has demanded that the team performs to its level best.
Zimbabwe will miss batsmen Brendan Taylor and Craig Ervine as well as bowlers Tendai Chatara and Kyle Jarvis who have been ruled out by either injury or illness.
Williams, like his coach Lalchand Rajput, wants the younger and fringe players to step in and show that they deserve to be in in the team.
The team started training this week following a few days in quarantine following its arrival in Asia.
“Sitting in quarantine for that long is tough, but now the guys are having a good time,” he told the media.
“We need to get strong in the face of challenges and we should not run away from challenges. I strive for perfection and it’s something that I have to work on. With the young guys, it’s a learning curve but at the same time I think if we can perform at the highest level we can do well. We have a young group and we are looking forward into the future.”
Some of the younger players that could debut Test cricket include Wesley Madhevere whom coach Rajput has spoken highly of.
This will be the first time that Zimbabwe will clash with Afghanistan in the longest format after the Asian side became a Test-playing nation in 2018.
Since then, they have played India, Bangladesh, Ireland and the Windies in that format.
Rajput said he will miss the experienced players that have failed to make the trip, but he is pleased to see fringe and young players getting the opportunity to stake their claim.
The team was hit at its core with the experienced batting duo of Taylor and Ervine failing to recover from illness on time to travel, while seamers Jarvis and Chatara are both absentees through injury.
Limited overs captain Chamu Chibhabha will also miss the T-20 series due to injury.
Yet in all the adversity, Rajput sees a great opportunity for the youngsters and is optimistic that they can go and pull-off desired results against one of the newer Test sides.
While fans are lamenting the absence particularly of Taylor who has played 31 Tests for Zimbabwe so far, scoring 2 055 runs that feature six hundreds and ten half centuries, Rajput believes that younger players can step in after they made runs in the preparatory matches played in Harare.
“We will definitely miss them (Taylor, Ervine, Chatara, Jarvis and Chibhabha) as they are the most experienced players around. We will miss their knowledge and experience, but at the same time it gives opportunity to showcase the talent of the players who are selected,” Rajput told NewsDay Sport.
“Somewhere you have to start putting young talent who are performing in domestic cricket and Zimbabwe Cricket have started doing it from this series. Say for a youngster like Wesley Madhevere, it will be a huge platform to play against best spinners in the world and I am sure this tour will give them a lot of maturity and experience. Test cricket is the real test of a player which tests the character, temperament and endurance to make good decisions over a long period of time.”
He added: “It is a good squad which has given opportunity for new players who have performed well in the domestic matches. It’s time for them to grab this opportunity with both hands and cement their places.”
- Follow Kevin on Twitter @kmapasure