Zimbabwe, the host of the previous two World Cup qualifiers, is on the verge of eliminating the West Indies, Ireland, and Scotland this time around.
Dave Houghton, the coach of Zimbabwe, believes that his team has become a unifying force in the country as they strive to secure a spot in the World Cup. He attributes this unity to the presence of something they can “truly love.”
The southwestern African nation is currently hosting the qualifiers for the upcoming 50-over showpiece in India, scheduled for October and November. In a winner-takes-all Super Six match against Scotland in Bulawayo on Tuesday, Zimbabwe has the opportunity to join Sri Lanka as one of the two qualifying teams.
Houghton expressed his excitement, stating, “Winning this match would be like winning a World Cup.” He emphasized the need for the team to play their best game and remained confident that they would be a formidable opponent. He firmly believes in their chances of success.
The qualifiers have been fiercely competitive, resulting in the elimination of West Indies and Ireland. Zimbabwe, following a loss to Sri Lanka on Sunday, now faces Scotland, a team that has also triumphed over the West Indies.
This qualifying tournament, which marks Zimbabwe’s second consecutive hosting, arrives two decades after the black-armband protests led by Andy Flower and Henry Olonga against former President Robert Mugabe. Despite the significant political, economic, and social challenges the country has faced since then, Houghton sees a new beginning on the horizon, with the current qualifiers bringing the nation together.
Houghton shared his perspective on Zimbabweans’ yearning for something they can genuinely support and embrace. He believes that cricket has filled that void, especially in the past year, beginning with last year’s T20 World Cup qualifiers.
He mentioned the overwhelming support received after qualifying for the 2020 20-over World Cup in Australia. Zimbabwe then hosted Bangladesh and India, achieving victories over Bangladesh in both the T20 and one-day international series, and even defeating Australia in a three-match one-day series in Townsville.
Houghton recalled how the crowds grew larger with each game, and people he had never met before would greet him in shops. The swell of support became evident, and the group of Zimbabwean supporters following the team during the T20 World Cup in Australia was a testament to their growing fan base.
Zimbabwe’s success on the field has captured the hearts of the nation. Houghton expressed his pride in the players for the joy they bring to the supporters, emphasizing their commitment to signing autographs and taking selfies with fans after every game. The public adores them as if they were their own children.
He emphasized the groundswell of support for cricket in Zimbabwe, noting the sold-out matches against the West Indies in Harare and Sri Lanka in Bulawayo. The game has captivated the Zimbabwean people like no other sport before.
Houghton, who took charge as head coach in June 2022, has set his sights on returning Zimbabwe to the top 10 in international rankings. Currently, they rank 11th in both T20 and one-day international formats and sit at the bottom of the eight-team Test table.
In addition to their current pursuit, Zimbabwe is scheduled to co-host the World Cup in 2027 with South Africa and Namibia. Houghton envisions a documentary showcasing the game’s development over the past 20 years, tracing the players’ journeys since the impactful black-armband protest in 2003.
He praised the current chairman, Tavengwa Mukuhlani, and chief executive, Givemore Makoni, for their effective leadership in pulling Zimbabwe cricket out of debt. Through sound financial planning and support from the International Cricket Council (ICC), the cricketing landscape in Zimbabwe has improved significantly. The standard of domestic cricket has risen, and new stadiums are planned for construction leading up to the 2027 World Cup.
Houghton commended Mukuhlani and Makoni for their remarkable achievements, noting the positive impact on the players, staff, and the entire organization.
As Zimbabwe heads into their final qualifier, the outcome will determine their fate. Houghton’s emotions were evident as he reflected on the team’s journey and the potential heartbreak of missing out on qualification. Having played remarkably well and progressed to this stage, he hopes for a different outcome and remains optimistic.
Zimbabweans have discovered a passion for cricket, rallying behind their team with unwavering support. The sport has become a unifying force in the nation, offering hope and joy amidst challenging times.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Cricket World Cup Qualifiers
What is the Cricket World Cup Qualifiers?
The Cricket World Cup Qualifiers is a tournament where teams compete to secure a spot in the upcoming 50-over World Cup. It is held to determine the final teams that will participate in the main tournament.
Which country is hosting the Cricket World Cup Qualifiers?
Zimbabwe is hosting the Cricket World Cup Qualifiers. They have previously hosted the qualifiers and are hosting it consecutively this time.
How does the qualification process work?
Teams participating in the qualifiers compete in a series of matches to earn a place in the World Cup. The specific format and number of teams advancing may vary, but typically the top teams from the qualifiers secure their spot in the main tournament.
Who has already been eliminated from the qualifiers?
The West Indies and Ireland have already been eliminated from the Cricket World Cup Qualifiers. They were unable to secure enough victories to advance to the main tournament.
How has cricket impacted Zimbabwe?
Cricket has become a unifying force in Zimbabwe, bringing the nation together amidst political, economic, and social hardships. The sport has captured the hearts of the Zimbabwean people, offering them something to support and love.
What are the future plans for Zimbabwe cricket?
Zimbabwe aims to return to the top 10 in international rankings across different formats. They also have plans to co-host the World Cup in 2027 with South Africa and Namibia. The development of new stadiums and financial stability are among the key objectives for Zimbabwe cricket’s future.