Harare – The stage is now being set for Zimbabwe to roll out the red carpet next month for nine other countries – from Papua New Guinea to Canada – in what will be the biggest cricket festival to roll into Southern Africa since the region hosted the 2003 icc Cricket World Cup exactly 15 years ago.
The International Cricket Council have named the match officials for the Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018, which will be held in Harare, Bulawayo and Kwekwe next month with 10 countries battling for two tickets to join the game’s heavyweights on the big stage of the ICC Cricket World in England and Wales next year.
Dev Govindjee, Graeme La Brooy, David Jukes and Shaid Wadvalla from the International Panel will be the referees, while the umpiring responsibilities will be shared between Ahsan Raza, Gregory Brathwaite, Christopher Brown, Simon Fry, Shaun George, Michael Gough, Adrian Holdstock, Langton Rusere, Chettithody Shamshuddin, Sharfuddoula Ibne Shahid, Joel Wilson and Paul Wilson, all from the International Panel, at the tournament.
The three-week cricket extravaganza will start on March 4 and end on March 25 and it is a high-stakes battle given that the prize is not only a place at the ICC Cricket World Cup next year but the huge financial rewards that come with playing at the showcase.
The West Indies, who won the first two ICC Cricket World Cup tournaments during a golden period for the Calypso Kings, are favourites to win one of the two tickets given their players have perfected the art of playing the short-term version of the game.
“Two-time world champions Windies will undoubtedly be the star attraction in the 34-match tournament,” the ICC said in a statement.
“The 1975 and 1979 champions have named in their squad Chris Gayle, a veteran of four World Cups, along with Marlon Samuels, who also featured in the 2007, 2011 and 2015 events. Nikita Miller and Kemar Roach played in the previous two Cricket World Cups.
“Jason Holder has been named as captain of the side, which also includes ICC Emerging Cricketer of the Year 2011, Devendra Bishoo. The two played in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 in Australia and New Zealand.
“The Windies have a total experience of 831 ODIs between them with Gayle and Samuels alone having played 275 and 192 ODIs, respectively.”
Afghanistan, who have been improving in leaps and bounds, are also expected to make a big impression at this tournament and have included 17-year-old Mujeeb Zadran, in their 15-man squad although teams will be allowed to make changes until February 25.
The teenager, who is a right-arm off-break bowler and also bats right-handed, was part of the Afghanistan team that played in the recent Under-19 ICC World Cup in New Zealand and impressed many neutrals with their brave campaign.
“Afghanistan have retained eight players from the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, namely: Asghar Stanikzai, Dawlat Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Mohammad Nabi, Javed Ahmadi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari and Shahpoor Zadran,” the ICC said in a statement.
“In addition to these experienced professionals, the Asian side also named in their squad wrist spinner Rashid Khan, who has made headlines all over the world in the very early days of his career, as well as 17-year-old off-spinner Mujeeb Zadran.
“Mujeeb took 12 wickets in five matches as Afghanistan finished fourth in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup which culminated in New Zealand early this month.
“Afghanistan, who until 2008 were playing in the ICC World Cricket League Division 5, had a collective experience of 571 ODIs in their ranks before the start of their series against Zimbabwe.”
However, conditions in Zimbabwe are likely to be a major factor in the determination of the eventual winners and that’s where the home side, known as the Chevrons by their fans, cannot be discounted from the nations likely to win one of the two tickets to the World Cup next year.
The ICC expect Zimbabwe to rely heavily on the likes of Brendan Taylor, who scored back-to-back centuries in his last World Cup appearance against Ireland and India, and Kyle Jarvis who have returned to play for their country after stints in English county cricket.
“Taylor and Craig Ervine have played in three and two ICC Cricket World Cups, respectively, while Tendai Chatara, Graeme Cremer, Hamilton Masakadza, Solomon Mire and Sikandar Raza were also part of the Zimbabwe squad for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand,” the ICC said in their statement.
“The side also includes left-arm fast bowler Brian Vitori who took five wickets in each of his first two ODIs back in 2011 to set a record at the time. Zimbabwe had a combined experience of 842 ODIs prior to the start of their series against Afghanistan. By the time the series ends on 19 January in Sharjah, Zimbabwe will become the most experienced side in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 with nearly 900 ODI caps.”
The Irish beat the West Indies and Zimbabwe at the last World Cup in Australia and New Zealand three years ago and have named a vastly-experienced side that has more ODI experience than the Windies as they try to find a way to sneak into the party in England next year.
Ten of the players who featured in that World Cup Down Under have been retained by the Irish for the adventure in Zimbabwe.
Kyle Coetzer, the 33-year-old with the experience of having played county cricket in England and has featured for Western Province in South Africa, will lead Scotland who will be making their title defence even though the last time the tournament was held the likes of Zimbabwe and the West Indies were not part of the show having qualified automatically for the World Cup.
A top order-batsman, he will be expected to lead from the front, in the search for runs and can also come hand as a right-arm medium fast bowler.
AFGHANISTAN (total ODI caps – 571, before the start of series v Zimbabwe): Asghar Stanikzai (captain), Dawlat Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Ihsanullah Janat, Mohammad Nabi, Mohammad Shahzad, Nasir Jamal, Javed Ahmadi, Mujeeb Rahman, Najibullah Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Rashid Khan, Samiullah Shinwari, Shahpoor Zadran and Sharafuddin Ashraf. Phil Simmons (coach)
HONG KONG (total ODI caps – 131): Babar Hayat (captain), Ahsan Abbasi, Nadeem Ahmed, Tanveer Ahmed, Tanwir Afzal, Waqas Barkat, Chris Carter, Aizaz Khan, Ehsan Khan, Ehsan Nawaz, Nizakat Khan, Scott McKechnie, Anshuman Rath, Simandeep Singh and Shahid Wasif. Simon Cook (coach)
IRELAND (total ODI caps – 851): William Porterfield (captain), Andrew Balbirnie, Peter Chase, George Dockrell, Ed Joyce, Andrew McBrine, Barry McCarthy, Tim Murtagh, Kevin O’Brien, Niall O’Brien, Boyd Rankin, James Shannon, Simi Singh, Paul Stirling and Gary Wilson
THE NETHERLANDS (total ODI caps – 191): Peter Borren (captain), Wesley Barresi, Ben Cooper, Scott Edwards, Vivian Kingma, Frederick Klaassen, Stephan Myburgh, Maxwell O’Dowd, Pieter Seelaar, Shane Snater, Ryan ten Doeschate, Timm van der Gugten, Roelof van der Merwe, Paul van Meekeren and Sikander Zulfiqar. Ryan Campbell (coach)
PAPUA NEW GUINEA (total ODI caps – 127): Assadollah Vala (captain), Charles Amini, Sese Bau, Mahuru Dai, Kiplin Doriga, Jason Kila, Vani Morea, Alei Nao, Damien Ravu, John Reva, Lega Siaka, Chad Soper, Tony Ura, Norman Vanua and Jack Vare. Joe Dawes (coach)
SCOTLAND (total ODI caps – 333): Kyle Coetzer (captain), Richie Berrington, Matthew Cross, Ali Evans, Michael Jones, Michael Leask, Calum MacLeod, George Munsey, Safyaan Sharif, Chris Sole, Tom Sole, Craig Wallace, Mark Watt, Brad Wheal and Stuart Whittingham. Grant Bradburn (coach)
THE WINDIES (total ODI caps – 831): Jason Holder (captain), Devendra Bishoo, Carlos Brathwaite, Sheldon Cottrell, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Evin Lewis, Nikita Miller, Jason Mohammed, Ashley Nurse, Rovman Powell, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels and Kesrick Williams. Stuart Law (coach)
ZIMBABWE (total ODI caps - 842, before the start of series v Afghanistan): Graeme Cremer (captain), Ryan Burl, Tendai Chatara, Tendai Chisoro, Craig Ervine, Kyle Jarvis, Hamilton Masakadza, Solomon Mire, Peter Moor, Tarisai Musakanda, Blessing Muzarabani, Sikandar Raza, Brendan Taylor, Brian Vitori, Malcolm Waller. Heath Streak (coach)