The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Can Raza Butt for Country?

Zimbabwe Cricket are still sweating to get Pakistani-born top-order batsman Sikander Raza Butt on their books as they are still waiting for response from the Ministry of Home Affairs over his application for citizenship.

Raza recently availed himself to play for Zimbabwe and was named among the eight newcomers in the training squad of 32 players preparing for the triangular series against touring South Africa and Australia A sides.

The limited-overs series will start next Wednesday and will be followed by two four-day games against Australia A as Zimbabwe step up preparations for a scheduled return to Test cricket in August against Bangladesh.

Chairman of selectors Alistair Campbell yesterday said they have not received any response from the Department of Immigration on Raza's application to regularise his citizenship status, which would make him eligible to play for Zimbabwe.

"Nothing has been forthcoming in that issue but we are still hopeful. We are following it up with the ministry and we have been meeting with the officials from the department.

"We are hopeful that we will get positive response in the next few months," said Campbell.

The 25-year-old opener, who migrated to Zimbabwe with his family nine years ago, has been one of the best batsmen in the domestic league but could not be considered for selection because of his citizenship status.

Raza was on top of his game in the Southern Rocks colours last season when he finished as their leading run scorer in the Stanbic Bank T20 Series.

But while efforts are still being made, Campbell said preparations for next week's commitments are going ahead smoothly. He said the final squad of 15 players to take part in the triangular series will be announced tomorrow, after six weeks of intensive preparations with coaches Alan Butcher, Stephen Mangongo, Grant Flower and Heath Streak.

Zimbabwe, however, suffered a setback in their preparations following injuries to Greame Cremer and Tino Mawoyo who have now been ruled out of the triangular series.

"Cremer has been struggling with the injury and is going to see a specialist on Friday (tomorrow).

"If it turns out that he needs surgery then he could be out for as long as four weeks.

"Tino also has been on rehabilitation and has been walking on crutches because of an ankle injury. He is doubtful for the one-day games but we hope he will be fully fit for the four-day games."

Campbell also stressed the importance of the series and the four-day game against Australia A.

"These matches will feature players who have represented their countries in limited overs, T20 and at Test level.

"South Africa and Australia have named strong teams.

"It's going to be competitive and it put us in good stead before we play our first Test match against Bangladesh in August.

"We have had an intensive preparation with all the coaches on board although we encountered a few injury worries. Of course, in professional sport there are bound to be such setbacks but we have seen some serious competition for places in all departments.

"The players have been doing quite well and it's going to be tough for the selectors to come down to the final 15," said Campbell.

The South Africa and Australia teams are expected in Harare at the weekend.

Zim XI squad

Elton Chigumbura, Vusi Sibanda, Tatenda Taibu, Brendan Taylor, Prosper Utseya, Charles Coventry, Graeme Cremer, Sikander Raza, Regis Chakabva, Tendai Chatara, Chamu Chibhabha, Terrence Duffin, Tochukwu Enwerem, Craig Ervine, Kyle Jarvis, Greg Lamb, Lovemore Manatsa, Hamilton Masakadza, Shingirai Masakadza, Tino Mawoyo, Keegan Meth, Chris Mpofu, Natsai Mushangwe, Forster Mutizwa, Njabulo Ncube, Mike Chinouya, Ian Nicolson, Tinashe Panyangara, Ray Price, Ed Rainsford, Brian Vitori, Maxwell Chifamba.

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