THE Zimbabwe cricket team leaves for the West Indies this afternoon without skipper Brendan Taylor who has been dropped from the travelling party, for the meantime, after suffering an illness. Taylor who arrived home on Thursday evening from Bangladesh, was supposed to be part of the delegation led by coach Alan Butcher and his assistant Steve Mangongo.
Zimbabwe are now travelling with trimmed crew 14 of players for the limited overs games and five officials who include the team manager, physiotherapist, analyst and a selector on tour.
Team manager, Lovemore Banda, said top order batsman Hamilton Masakadza was expected home last night from the BPL and should undergo fitness tests which were taken by the rest of the players in the squad this week before boarding the plane.
"Unfortunately we have 14 players because Taylor is down with a viral infection. He has gone for blood tests and the results should come out tomorrow (today).
"Based on those results, we should be able to determine if he can take a fitness test and then arrange for him to follow," said Banda.
The in-form top order batsmen is expected to lead Zimbabwe from the front following a fruitful stint in the Bangladesh Premier League where he inspired Chittagong Kings to the last four of the tournament with top-notch performances.
Taylor has apologised to Zimbabwe Cricket authorities for criticising their decision to leave assistant coaches, Heath Streak and Grant Flower out of the tour of the Windies.
"I have noted that comments I posted last week we made in the heat of the moment," Taylor wrote on his Facebook page.
"Ref(erence); the decision made by the ZC board to leave Grant, Heath and Lorraine out of the touring West Indies squad.
"This was really not my intention. I now appreciate that Facebook was not the right platform to air my concerns and I have since spoken to the managing director (Wilfred Mukondiwa) of ZC and apologised.
"I remain committed to ZC and look forward to leading the side to the West Indies. I am happy that I have had this time in the Bangladesh Premier League to continue with my preparations."
Zimbabwe are expected in West Indies tomorrow after travelling through Johannesburg and London.
They will then play the University of West Indies in a warm-up match on Wednesday before getting down to serious business two days later in the first One Day International.
The team will play three ODIs, two T20s and two Tests in what happens to be Zimbabwe"s first tour of the West Indies in 13 years.
Four members of the limited-overs squad - Craig Ervine, Chamu Chibhabha, Tino Mutombodzi and Natsai M'shangwe - will return after the ODIs and T20s and will be replaced by Sean Williams, Timycen Maruma, Ray Price and Graeme Cremer for the Tests.
The quartet will travel on March 3 after the second T20 at North Sound.
Coach Alan Butcher yesterday said he was looking forward to put behind them the poor away record that has dogged the Zimbabwe cricket team in the previous years.
Zimbabwe are happy with the tour following a prolonged period of inactivity on the international scene.
It is the first time they are playing a two-Test series since playing India in 2005 and Butcher believes they have done adequate preparations in the last two weeks they have been in camp.
"It has all gone pretty well. We are looking good and the guys are confident. I am glad we have seen some improvement in our technique.
"It is better than last year but we have to get it right mentally. We have had a psychologist who was working with these guys and I am sure things will work out.
"I am glad we had some players who were playing in the Bangladesh Premier League where they faced cricketers from other nations. Obviously it helped them and that psychological boost should be a positive to the team."
Zimbabwe will go to the West Indies as the underdogs but they are confident of causing some upsets in the Caribbean.
This will be Butcher's last dance with the team as his contract comes to an end at the end of next month.
The 59-year old Englishman said he was looking forward to a challenging assignment and challenged his players to raise the bar and improve on the away record.
"Watching cricket for the past two or so years, we expect the wicket to be quite slow and I think it will be good for batting. However, every game will be challenging.
"West Indies are the World T20 champions and they are probably somewhere in the mid-table in other formats and we have to try hard to win against them to improve our ranking," said Butcher.
ODI and T20 squad:
Brendan Taylor (capt), Hamilton Masakadza, Vusi Sibanda, Tino Mawoyo, Kyle Jarvis, Tendai Chatara, Chris Mpofu, Prosper Utseya, Regis Chakabva, Malcolm Waller, Keegan Meth, Craig Ervine, Chamu Chibhabha, Tino Mutombodzi, Natsai M"shangwe
Brendan Taylor (capt), Tino Mawoyo, Vusi Sibanda, Hamilton Masakadza, Regis Chakabva, Malcolm Waller, Kyle Jarvis, Keegan Meth, Tendai Chatara, Chris Mpofu, Prosper Utseya, Sean Williams, Timycen Maruma, Raymond Price, Graeme Cremer.