The Zimbabwe national cricket team will not take United Arab Emirates lightly when the two teams clash in the first of four One Day Internationals (ODI) at Harare Sports Club this morning.
It was the Associate side that blew Zimbabwe out of the 2019 World Cup contention when they beat their hosts in their final qualifying match to open the door for Afghanistan who eventually claimed one of the two tickets that were available.
And a year on, the two teams clash in the first bilateral series, with each team having a point to prove.
Zimbabwe stand-in skipper Peter Moor said while there will be less pressure for Zimbabwe as they take on an Associate side, they will not take their guests lightly because they are fully aware of the danger that they pose.
He said the team had since moved on from the World Cup heartbreak and will be focused on the series where they will be aiming for a clean sweep.
“What happened last year has come and gone, I think we are past that as a side and UAE have a young and exciting side and we are really looking forward to playing. It has been six months since we played international cricket. So the whole side is looking forward to that and no one is looking back at what happened last year in the World Cup qualifiers anymore,” Moor, who is standing in for the injured Hamilton Masakadza, told journalists in Harare yesterday.
He said Zimbabwe, a Test side, have a point to prove since they are expected to beat an Associate side.
“As a full member you have a point to prove we need to show the world that we are a full member, so we have got a lot to lose in that regard. But I think the pressure is kind of less because we play a side that doesn’t play as much competitive cricket as we do, but that’s not to say that we are taking them lightly. We will take it as if we were playing a full member side.”
Noting that the squad had prepared well for the series, having gone into camp soon after the completion of the domestic leagues, he said: “We have been thorough with our preparation and we are just looking forward to our first ODI tomorrow (today).”
The missing two senior batsmen, Masakadza and Brendon Taylor, who are both injured, have provided an opportunity for other players to raise their hands.
“It’s an opportunity for somebody to put their hand up. It’s a big blow to lose two of our best batsmen, but it’s an opportunity for somebody to go out and make runs. We back ourselves and believe that the guys that have come in to replace Taylor and Masakadza will do well.”
UAE coach Dougie Brwon said his team was capable of repeating what it did against Zimbabwe last year.
He described this series as the biggest step they have made as a cricket nation and they will be looking to make good use of the rare opportunity.
“We see this as a chance playing a full member side. Last time it was an upset, but for us it wasn’t an upset. We know we can challenge any side,” he said. “With the way we have prepared, there is no reason why we can’t stand toe-to-toe with Zimbabwe. Both teams have new players people have not seen before. We think our preparations have been good, whether we can win the series, we will see over the course.”
He added that his side had nothing to lose, which gives them the freedom to express themselves.
“We have got nothing to lose, which makes us a dangerous side. A number of Associate sides haven’t got these opportunities and when they do some players have really shown. We know the world will be watching and we have a few points to prove. We have a number of match winners; I can’t single out one player. On any given day anyone in the 14-man squad should be able to put up a match-winning contribution. This is the biggest ever series that we have ever been involved in. Forget the World Cup, this is the best we have played, this is an incredibly huge series for us and Zimbabwe as well.”