BY DANIEL NHAKANISO ZIMBABWE cricket team coach Lalchand Rajput has appealed to local cricket fans to come in their numbers to rally behind the team ahead of the crucial three-match One-Day International (ODI) against Afghanistan which gets underway at Harare Sports Club this morning.
The Chevrons, who are also scheduled to play three T20I matches against the tourists later this month, will be seeking a positive result in the ODI series which is part of the ICC Cricket World Cup Super League.
The series against Afghanistan will also give Zimbabwe a chance to salvage some lost pride after succumbing to a shock series defeat against Namibia in a five-match T20I in Bulawayo last month.
Rajput, who has come under some criticism for the team’s inconsistent results however believes the low turnout by spectators has also had a negative impact on the team’s performances.
“That is what we are lacking,” Rajput said when asked about the importance of the fans’ support.
“If you look at other parts of the world there are a lot of fans coming and cheering their own team and I request all the fans to please come and support the team because that support will push the players to even perform better. I am sure a lot of fans will come in large numbers to support,” Rajput said.
Rajput’s appeal to the fans comes at a time local cricket matches have recently been marred by poor attendances since the return of the sport following the Covid-19 pandemic.
While Rajput was appealing to the fans, the players say they are aware of the importance of doing well against Afghanistan.
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Allrounder Sikandar Raza, who had difficult series against Namibia said a lot will be at stake for him and the team and he is relishing the challenge.
“It is a big tour for us especially with the ODI Super League at stake as well and going into the (ICC) T20 World Cup qualifiers as well, so for me and the team there’s a lot at stake and we are looking forward to that challenge,” Raza said.
Rising star Wesley Madhevere, who was in brilliant form against Namibia said they are aware of the threat posed by the Afghanistan team and will be looking to bounce back strongly from the disappointing finish against Namibia.
“Afghanistan is one of the countries that are evolving in terms of their cricket so it’s going to be a good challenge and I’m looking forward to that. I know the previous encounter wasn’t the best but that is what you want as cricketers to be challenged,” Madhevere said.
While the ICC World Cup Super League points are the main target for Zimbabwe, they will also head into the series seeking to gain some winning momentum ahead of the upcoming ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier, which they will host next month.
However, Afghanistan have, of late, become a bogey team for Zimbabwe across formats.
In fact, the tourists have a better head-to-head record in white-ball cricket.
The teams have met 25 times in ODIs with Zimbabwe winning 10 and losing 15.
Blessing Muzarabani was the hero in the last ODI meeting between the two sides when he claimed four wickets as Zimbabwe defended 196 runs to secure a two-run victory in an ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier four years ago in Bulawayo.
Zimbabwe ODI squad for Afghanistan series
Ervine Craig (captain), Burl Ryan, Chakabva Regis, Chatara Tendai, Chivanga Tanaka, Jongwe Luke, Kaitano Takudzwanashe, Madande Clive, Madhevere Wessly, Muzarabani Blessing, Myers Dion, Ndlovu Ainsley, Raza Sikandar, Shumba Milton, Tiripano Donald.
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