Young Zimbabwe eye knockout place

Updated: Feb 06, 2011, 14:25 PM IST

Johannesburg: Zimbabwe`s young cricketers will seek to show during the World Cup that they are making progress in their bid to rejoin the sport`s elite nations.

They also have an opportunity to reach the second round of the tournament for the third time in their history after being drawn with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Kenya in the group stage.

With four teams from the mini-league qualifying for the quarter-finals they will need to beat outsiders Canada and Kenya as well as at least one of the Test nations.

Selection convener Alistair Campbell said after announcing Zimbabwe`s World Cup squad that he felt the team had a good draw.

"We would look to perhaps target New Zealand as they are pretty unpredictable, as can be Pakistan," he said.

"So, if we play to our ability, there is every chance things could go our way to get into the next round."

Campbell`s ambition is not entirely unrealistic because Zimbabwe have beaten the West Indies, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the past year -- although the triumphs have been isolated and they were unable to win any of the series in which they occurred.

But Zimbabwe cricket has advanced in the past two years after going through a chaotic period during which many of the leading players rebelled against the administration, culminating in the country voluntarily withdrawing from Test cricket five years ago.

Some who were in dispute with Zimbabwe Cricket, including Campbell, former captain Heath Streak and Grant Flower, are involved, together with English coach Alan Butcher, in preparing the current squad for the World Cup and, they hope, a return to Test cricket before the end of 2011.

Former West Indian star Brian Lara is a batting consultant.

Elton Chigumbura leads a young team, in which nine of the 15 players are 25 or younger and only one, left-arm spinner Ray Price, is over 30.

They will be trying to emulate the performances of the 1999 and 2003 teams, who both advanced to what was then a Super Six stage.

The current side`s strength is in spin bowling, where Price, off-spinner Prosper Utseya and leg-spinner Graeme Cremer should be effective in sub-continental conditions, and fielding.

The fast bowling is weak and the batting fragile, although Brendan Taylor has been in good form at the top of the order.

Bureau Report