By Eddie Chikamhi and Prince Mukuna
After making a late debut at the ICC Cricket World Cup three years ago, Zimbabwe’s veteran batsman Hamilton Masakadza is looking to maximise on the forthcoming qualifying tournament at home to carve himself a last dance on the big stage.
In about 10 days’ time, 10 nations will descend on Zimbabwe to take part in the competition for the two slots available for next year’s World Cup to be hosted by England and Wales. Masakadza, who has scored more than 5 000 runs in ODI cricket, is one of the pillars of the Chevrons team.
Despite having made his ODI debut as a fresh-faced teenager in 2001, the 34-year old opening batsman only got to play his first World Cup in 2015 after he was overlooked for the 2003, 2007 and 2011 tournaments. The 2019 tournament could be his second and last appearance at a Cricket World Cup.
Zimbabwe, however, have to make it through a rigorous qualifying tournament which they host from March 4-25. Masakadza, in spite of his fluctuating form and stats, is still hoping to draw inspiration from the home crowd.
“It’s very exciting to be playing at home. We have got a very passionate cricket following, they follow us quite closely, we owe them a lot. We are massively confident, because playing at home, that’s a massive advantage.
“The way the team is playing and gelling together, we are really confident that we have the team to go all the way in the tournament. It is very special to represent the country, for me, it’s my last chance to play in the World Cup,” he said.
Zimbabwe are in Group B, together with Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Nepal and Scotland. Group A has the West Indies, Ireland, the Netherlands, Papua New Guinea and United Arab Emirates.
Chevrons captain Graeme Cremer acknowledged that the tournament will not be easy, but reasoned that the home conditions could give them the edge. The teams that reach the final after three weeks of intense cricket will grab the tickets to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
“It’s very, very special for us to have such a big tournament in our country. It will be a tough tournament, the associate teams have come a long way, but hopefully being in our home conditions, we will qualify.
“With the home crowd behind us, we are confident about our chances. It will be very special for me to captain the side and take the team through to the World Cup,” he said.
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Zimbabwe are coming from a 1-4 ODI series thumping by Afghanistan and would need to pull up their socks. As the countdowns continues, the hype surrounding the event will be livened up tomorrow when the organisers host the Zimbabwe Cricket World Cup Chairman Invitation Golf Tournament at Harare Borrowdale Golf Course.
Speaking with The Herald yesterday, ZC’s head of cricket affairs Givemore Makoni said the tournament is meant to fundraise for the Zimbabwe team and also to advertise the World cup.
He said the golf tournament is a platform to raise awareness, engage the corporate world and the public on the World Cup blitz.
“Some of the cricket players will also participate in the tourney as it has been made as a platform for the public to mingle with the cricket staff on the course and also to raise funds for the ICC qualifiers and other events.
“The tourney is meant to raise awareness to the general public and corporate world so that they will be aware of what is taking place in the world of cricket,” he said.
Makoni added that they are almost through with the final touches on the preparations for the 2018 ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier scheduled for 4-25 March.
“Most of the facilities are almost ready as well as the practising and playing pitches. We are almost done as we are now only left with finalising the finer aspects of the preparations,” he said.
The Windies were the first team to arrive for the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 in Zimbabwe on Sunday. They were followed by Zimbabwe and Afghanistan on Tuesday following the completion of their final leg of preparations in Dubai, where they played two T20s and five ODIs.