HARARE – Zimbabwe national cricket Under-18 coach, Walter Chawaguta, is confident his team will put up a good show during the annual South African Cricket Festival.
The team leaves Wednesday morning for a week-long festival at the Eastern Junior Club Cricket Association (EJCCA) in Benoni.
“We bat right down the order and so we are going as a confident and well-motivated team. The spirit is high…you can tell by the enjoyable banter on our WhatsApp phone group,” said Chawaguta.
“We have focused for the past month on many one-on-one sessions; though it’s a pity we have been unable to have any warm-up matches.
“Fielding has been my main concern and we have made it a priority and they seem to be developing into a sharp unit.”
The team is captained by top-order left-hand batsman Eddie Byrom.
The St John’s College batsman recently turned 16 and played for the Zimbabwe Under-18s in last December’s South African Cricket Week in Cape Town.
Chawaguta, a former Zimbabwe senior national team coach, is also hopeful that the prospect of a place at the Under-19 World Cup squad will inspire the players to play to their full potential.
The Under-19 World Cup will be held in Dubai in March next year.
“With the Under-19 World Cup in Dubai in March next year we are looking to blood a few younger players for continuity, who would still be there in 2016,” added Chawaguta.
“That should be a big motivational factor — we have earmarked a few already but someone who really shines on tour now could still be invited to the World Cup trials this August.”
The annual EJCCA Festival (Under-18) is headquartered at Benoni’s Willowmoore Park and Zimbabwe will play three of their opening five Twenty20 matches between July 3 and 5 on the ODI international ground, which is also headquarters of the Africa Cricket Association.
The Under-18 section also features three teams from the strong South African Easterns franchise, Namibia, Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho and Mozambique.
Normally the winter pitches in Benoni are slow and favour spin, with outfields often dry and spongy, making fast runs difficult.
“We have got a strong unit of four spinners and have done a lot of work with them these past few months,” Chawaguta said.
“The spin department comprise of leg spinner Kyle Hopper, Jeremy Ives (left-arm), Richie Lock (off-spin) and Ahsen Ali Aqil (off-spin).
“The seam attack will be spearheaded by three St John’s College speedsters Brad Evans, Gary King and Shane Snater as well as Branden Watson of Falcon College in Matebeleland.”
Harare Spare Parts and tyre specialists, Drum City (Pvt) Ltd, have sponsored the kit for both the Under-16 and Under-18 teams.
Meanwhile, Under-18 tour manager, Nick Singo from Zimbabwe Cricket, insists on moulding a well-disciplined team on tour.
“They (players) must represent their country with pride, take responsibility and remember this is a festival where the spirit of the game is emphasised,” said Singo.
“We’ll go all out to win and play our best, of course, and I expect our main opposition to come from the hosts Easterns and also Namibia, who sometimes bring several of their Under-19 World Cup players.”
Zimbabwe Under-18 squad: Eddie Byrom (captain, St John’s), Gary King (vice-captain, St John’s), Tatenda Chiradza (Prince Edward), Shaun Nyamutsa (Peterhouse), Tufail Zaheer (Prince Edward), Nazim Patel(Prince Edward), Brad Evans (St John’s), Kyle Hopper (St John’s), Richie Lock (St John’s), Shane Snater (St John’s), Ahsen Ali Aqil (home school), Jeremy Ives (St George’s), Branden Watson (Falcon College).
Coach: Walter Chawaguta, Manager: Nick Singo.