While New Zealand have spent the last two weeks practising patience in anticipation of slow, low conditions in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe cannot wait to get started.
They have waited 20 months to play a Test match since visiting Bangladesh at the end of 2014. They have not hosted a Test in almost two years and have not held one in Bulawayo in five. To say they are eager would be an understatement.
“My boys are ready,” Makhaya Ntini, Zimbabwe’s interim head coach said. “I say that because they have been waiting for too long to play Test cricket. This country is a Test country and we don’t have enough of those. They have been waiting for too long to show how hungry they are.”
In preparation, Zimbabwe’s A side had two matches against South Africa A, the hosts lost the second one, and one against the touring New Zealanders, who also defeated them. Their on-field losses were magnified by the personnel problems due to injuries, which have effectively left an inexperienced attack.
Tinashe Panyangara and Tendai Chatara’s injuries have left Zimbabwe’s squad with four other quicks who have two Tests between them. Njabulo Ncube’s came five years ago, against New Zealand, and Donald Tiripano’s against South Africa in August 2014. Taurai Muzarabani and Michael Chinouya are uncapped but have played 61 and 65 first-class matches respectively.
Despite the new faces in his pace pack, Ntini insisted he was “not nervous” about how they will fare against batsmen like Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor.
“Me? No, I am not nervous. It’s them that are going on the field. For me, it’s just to motivate them, to show them the way and make them believe. If they get selected, it is a very good chance to show what they are capable of,” Ntini said.
“We are bringing new things in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has been one of the countries that has been neglected for quite some time. If they get an opportunity, they will utilise it to their full potential.”
Among the new things is the freedom to express themselves, something Zimbabwean players have previously steered away from as former coach Alan Butcher wrote in his book The Good Murungu, an account of his time in charge.
Ntini’s boisterous personality, and famously booming voice, has encouraged everyone around him to follow suit, tell some jokes and just generally have a little more fun.
“It’s been good for us to have Makhaya. We were set in our ways for a long time where we didn’t express ourselves. Makhaya, with the way he is, has brought out a few characters in the team which can only be good for us,” Graeme Cremer, Zimbabwe’s newly appointed captain said. a�� Cricinfo