Eddie Chikamhi Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE all-rounder batsman Chamu Chibhabha has been presented with the opportunity to make his Test debut after he was named in the squad to play New Zealand in a two-match series beginning next week in Bulawayo.
Chibhabha, who turns 30 in September, has never played a Test match for his country in a career spanning over a decade.
But with 96 One Day International caps, Chibhabha is expected to be one of the late debutants during the matches to be played at Queens Sports Club from next Thursday.
The Zimbabwe opener yesterday said he has been working hard on his game and is relishing the opportunity to break the duck in the longer version of the game.
“I’m obviously grateful to be selected into the team. It’s something that I have looked forward to for a very long time in my career. I am glad it finally came and for me it’s another opportunity to showcase what I am capable of doing as a cricketer.
“This chance has come late in my career when I also think I have matured as a cricketer. I have been working hard on my bowling and batting as well because I feel I have to bring balance into the team as the guy who can both bat and bowl.
“It’s not only a big opportunity for me but for all of us as a team because we don’t play Tests often as a country,” said Chibhabha.
Uncapped opener Prince Masvaure also got a place in the 16-member squad announced yesterday following a fine performance with the bat during the recent matches between Zimbabwe A and South Africa A in Bulawayo.
The 27-year old was one of the stand-out performers with the bat in a rather disappointing tour for the hosts as he raked up 277 runs from four innings, including a century and a half-century.
Former Under-19 skipper Peter Moor and Taurai Muzarabani, who have been on and off the radar in the limited overs selections, are also poised for their first Tests.
Leg-spinner Graeme Cremer will captain the side which also has Hamilton Masakadza, Craig Ervine, Sikandar Raza Butt and Tendai Chatara. Opener Tino Mawoyo has also forced his way back into the squad after playing a crucial innings in the drawn match against South Africa A recently.
The selectors made bold changes when they decided to drop former captain Elton Chigumbura, Vusi Sibanda and Malcom Waller. Seamer Tinashe Panyangara who has been struggling with a recurring back injury was also overlooked.
New Zealand arrived on Wednesday with their strongest squad. They had a week-long training camp in South Africa at the University of Pretoria High Performance Centre.
The Black Caps are looking to use the Zimbabwe tour to intensify their preparations ahead of next month’s clash with South Africa’s Proteas in two Tests.
Their coach Mike Hesson yesterday said they were still expecting a tough outing in Zimbabwe.
He said the training camp in South Africa was crucial for his side.
“It was a good chance to get the team together, we had the majority of the team and actually got used to the conditions that we are going to face here and also when we head back to South Africa in a couple of weeks.
“I think the conditions will pose many challenges. I think the Zimbabwean players are obviously familiar with the nature of the surfaces here and I think in Bulawayo we are expecting something that is going to be relatively slow and not giving a lot of bounce so taking 20 wickets will be a challenge.
“We respect the opposition we play against. That’s something we are very proud of as a team, regardless whether we are playing number one in the world or not.
“So we have to prepare equally. Some of the Zimbabwe players we don’t know very well, we don’t have a lot of footage on them so we are going to deal with that but we certainly won’t be underestimating Zimbabwe in their own conditions,” said Hesson.
New Zealand will play a three-day warm up match against Zimbabwe A starting today in Harare.
Zimbabwe Test Squad:
Graeme Cremer (capt), Sikandar Raza, Regis Chakabva, Brian Chari, Tendai Chatara, Chamu Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Hamilton Masakadza, Prince Masvaure, Tino Mawoyo, Peter Moor, Richmond Mutumbami, Taurai Muzarabani, Njabulo Ncube, Donald Tiripano, Sean Williams
New Zealand Test squad:
Kane Williamson (capt), Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Mark Craig, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi, Jeet Raval, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling.