Zimbabwe’s Chevrons, which is currently in India for the International Cricket Council World Twenty20 tournament, are hoping to win despite playing without key players who suffered injuries.
Chevron team captain Hamilton Masakadza is hopeful about Zimbabwe’s chances of making it through to the finals of the ICC World Cup. He admitted though at a press conference in Nagpur, where they will play all their qualifiers this week that the start was a little rough.
"The preparation is going very well. The first practice game didn't go very well but we had more practice games before that. The last practice game we had went according to plan so the guys have something to build on," said Masakadza.
Masakadza’s confidence for the qualifiers that begin Tuesday, stems from the Chevron’s practice match win against Ireland last Saturday in Dharmashala, where Masakadza scored an unbeaten 68 runs in the victory.
Zimbabwe faces Hong Kong at Tuesday’s crucial opening qualifier. The two teams have never met each other in an official international match, although Hong Kong defeated Zimbabwe in a warm-up match for the 2014 World Twenty20 tournament.
Test nation Zimbabwe are ranked 13th in Twenty20, one place ahead of Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s team captain Tanwir Afzal, says they are ready for Zimbabwe.
"We all know that Zimbabwe is an experienced side and they have a few good player(s). So we knew the statistics of the players and we have a plan. We work out on the weakness of them," said Afzal.
Despite Hong Kong’s tough talk, Masakadza said he and his team are not worried.
"We're not really (nervous). We've had a few games against them so we know what to expect when we play against them. I think that's going to stand us in good stead. Because we know exactly what we're going to face we're not feeling too much pressure," responded Masakadza.
Asked about their record over time, Masakadza said there’s a lot Zimbabwe can do to improve its game.
"I think Zimbabwe need to be more consistent. We've been a little bit up and down and it's about putting everything together on the day. Things have started to come for us and we're looking forward to putting in a good performance this time around," said Masakadza.
Zimbabwe experienced a jolt when three players suffered injuries and had to be dropped from the squad before the qualifiers with Hong Kong. Leg-spinner Graeme Cremer and pacers Luke Jongwe and Neville Madziva were hurt during practice games and had to be omitted just a week before the tournament was due to commence.
One player, Tendai Chatara, who was also injured, is now back in the fold.
To boost its team's performance Zimbabwe have hired former South African pace bowler Makhaya Ntini as an assistant coach, and former Sri Lanka captain, Marvan Atapattu, as the specialist batting coach.
Both Ntini and Atapattu will complement Dav Whatmore a Sri Lankan born former Australian cricketer who is on four-year contract to coach Zimbabwe. He has already been at the helm as head coach for the past three years.
"They are very experienced so it's very good to have guys who have such extensive knowledge of the game giving us advice and input. I think that's something we have lacked in the recent past to get us over the line. I think everything those heads put together in our changing room has done a great deal for us," said Masakadza.
The Zimbabweans normally perform well when they are underdogs.