Vol. 5 Num 215 Fri. December 31, 2004  

Past Taibu's inspiration
Zimbabwe arrive to play two Tests, five ODIs

A new-look Zimbabwe cricket team arrived in Dhaka yesterday to feature in what pundits have dubbed a championship of the two lightweight Test nations.

The second visit of the Southern African nation to Bangladesh is significant in many ways. The two match-Test series ahead of five one-day internationals will mark the return of Zimbabwe to Test duty after seven months, which saw them lose most of their leading cricketers due to a protracted dispute over selection policy with the now defunct ZCU and Heath Streak-led rebels.

With none of the big names like the Flower brothers Andy and Grant, Alistair Campbell, Streak, Henry Olonga, Andy Blignaut, Ray Price around, the series offers the best opportunity for Bangladesh to record their first Test victory.

But the youthful Zimbabwe captain Tatenda Taibu vowed to repeat the success of their predecessors soon after his team landed here yesterday morning.

"I'm sure the boys are here to win. We are very positive. We know that we are a different side but that does not change anything," Taibu told reporters after the 21-member Zimbabwe team flew in from Kolkata.

While the 21-year-old wicket-keeper-batsman, who struggled to maintain the standards set by his predecessor Streak, put up a brave face on the back of punishing defeats in all the one-day matches his inexperienced side has so far featured in, his coach West Indian Phil Simmons sounded more realistic.

"I think for the first time, Bangladesh will be the favourites in the series. But I also think this is going to be close. We will be hoping to win both the series and to play as positive as we can," said Simmons whose boys drew both their three-day matches in India.

Zimbabwe will fly to Chittagong today for the tour opener, a three-day match against the BCB XI starting on Saturday at the Divisional Stadium. The first Test starts on January 6 at the MA Aziz Stadium.

Zimbabwe have not played any Test cricket since the home series against Sri Lanka in May this year.

Besides, Taibu's squad contains six cricketers who played in the ICC U-19 World Cup in Bangladesh earlier this year.

Taibu thinks that the seven-month self-imposed break from Test cricket would create a little bit of a problem.

"But it is not really very big as we played a few warm-up games against India A. I am sure the guys are really eager to play in the longer version game.

"We have been playing good cricket in bits and pieces and it's only a matter of time for us to play good cricket for the whole of a game," said the Zimbabwe captain.

"We really don't give a lot of thought to what people think (about our strength). As long as we know what the team can produce, as long as we can look at each other in the changing room, knowing that we can play the best cricket".

.we know that we can.. That's where we are putting our concentration now," he said.

When asked how much has Zimbabwe cricket suffered without their senior players Taibu said: "I admit that we have had some problems in the absence of the senior players. We don't have much experience that we would have liked to have. But we can't control that."

While commenting on Bangladesh's victory against India, he said, "Yes, they are really improving, which is really good for world cricket. I think a win against India is a positive thing to take out of the series. Obviously they would be high on confidence and I expect a good series."

Simmons, who is on his third visit to Bangladesh this year following tours of Zimbabwe Under-19 and A teams, said that the games in India has helped his charges to adjust with conditions in this part of the world.

"The positive was that we got the chance to practice and play in India because due to rain, we could not train in Zimbabwe. It was a good experience for us to play on sub-continent wickets."

Simmons did not hide his expectation that the home side would prepare turning tracks, saying, "I expected Mohammad Rafique to prepare the wicket. I know Bangladesh are thinking that Rafique is the biggest threat for us but we also have a few surprises up our sleeves."

Admitting that working with a set of young cricketers is tough, the former West Indies opener said that he has to make up for the lack of experience.

"There are two types of players, young and enthusiastic ones and the experienced. Enthusiasm can some time make up for lack of experience. We are working on the 16 players we have and they have so far given everything. If you don't have the experience, you use what you have. That's our policy."

Tatenda Taibu (captain), Hamilton Masakadza, Douglas Hondo, Tinashe Panyangara, Brendon Taylor, Christopher Mpofu, Elton Chigumbura, Dion Ebrahim, Grame Cremer, Prosper Utseya, Terrance Duffin, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Mluleki Nkala, Vusimuzi Sibanda, Barney Rogers, Edward Rainsford; Phil Simmons (coach), Dean Woodford (trainer), Amato Mahikicho (physio), Tinashe Ruswa (analyst) and Mohammed Meman (manager).

Jan 1-3: 3-dayer v BCB XI, Chittagong
Jan 6-10: 1st Test, MA Aziz Stadium
Jan 14-18: 2nd Test, Bangabandhu Stadium
Jan 20: 1st ODI, Bangabandhu Stadium
Jan 24: 2nd ODI, MA Aziz Stadium
Jan 26: 3rd ODI, MA Aziz Stadium
Jan 29: 4th ODI, Bangabandhu Stadium
Jan 31: 5th ODI, Bangabandhu Stadium

WELCOME TO BANGLADESH: Zimbabwe cricketers, who have come here on a two-Test and five-ODI tour, wait to check-in upon their arrival at the Sonargaon Hotel yesterday. PHOTO: STAR