UNDERDOGS Zimbabwe face a daunting task to redeem themselves when they engage World T20 champions West Indies in a two-match series at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground in Antigua today and tomorrow. The Zimbabweans need to quickly forget the 0-3 whitewash they suffered in the One Day International series at the hands of the same opponents.
Alan Butcher's men went down by 156 runs in the opening match of the tour, and then lost the second by seven wickets before suffering to another five-wicket defeat in the third.
Interestingly, the Zimbabweans batted all the 50 overs in the three matches.
However, the team's assistant coach Steve Mangongo yesterday told The Herald from their base in Antigua that a victory in the first match of the T20 contest would just be what the doctor ordered ahead of the remaining games in the tour.
"Of course we didn't manage to win any of the ODIs and we were all very disappointed. Nonetheless we have to look ahead with self-belief because if you look at the second game, we came that close although it was not to be in the end.
"So I believe our chances are 50/50 for the simple reason that T20 is the most unpredictable format in cricket. It's anyone's game depending on how you apply yourselves.
"We would need to go out there more determined and show on the field that we have that hunger to win. It needs determination," said Mangongo.
There was good news in the camp yesterday as middle order batsman Craig Ervine, who missed the third ODI because of sickness, is back to fitness.
Mangongo said Zimbabwe needed to step up their batting and the coming in of Ervine was greeted with a feeling of relief as the team has been struggling to put the runs on the board against the West Indies attack.
"He is one of our best players but unfortunately he was down with an asthmatic condition and missed the third ODI. The good thing is that he is now up and running.
"He has been training with the rest of the team and should be fighting for a place," said Mangongo.
Zimbabwe will be hoping that their seamers find their range.
As it stands the tourists are pinning their attack on spinners Tino Mutombodzi, who made a fine debut in the limited overs game on Tuesdays by leading the way with two wickets, Natsai M'shangwe and Prosper Utseya.
"Our spinners have done well and there has been some revelations here in the games that we have played.
"Youngsters like Tino Mutombodzi and Natsai M'shangwe have shown glimpses of what they are capable of doing.
"They have represented their country so well. I am sure if our spin is in fine form then we have a big chance of upsetting the World champions," said Mangongo.
The hosts' captain Darren Sammy, who was rested for the ODI Series by the West Indies Cricket Board, returns to the fold as he leads the 13-member squad into battle.
West Indies made a few changes to the squad that performed well in the ODI series as two rising stars in their regional cricket - fast bowler Shannon Gabriel and all-rounder Christopher Barnwell - were also called up.
Barnwell, who was the top scorer in the recent Caribbean T20 tournament, said he was unfazed by his failure to produce runs in recent matches of the regional ODI and four-day competitions.
Instead the all-rounder is looking for consistency with bat and ball while another addition Samuel Badree will look to build the pressure on Zimbabwe.
The two were among the leading performers at last month's Caribbean T20 tournament.
Badree however warned against underrating the Zimbabweans.
"I'm looking forward with great expectations to the matches ahead. We had a good One-Day Series against the Zimbabweans where we won all three matches, and we will also look to win both Twenty20 matches," Badree told the WICB website.
"In T20 there aren't really any underdogs.
"I will look to have two good games against them and continue to showcase my talents for the West Indies on the international stage.
"The key to bowling in T20 cricket is consistency and that helps to build the pressure on batsmen. I will look to maintain the pressure we have created."
Explosive opening batsman Chris Gayle who was not available for the ODI series will again not feature in the T20 competition.
According to a statement from the WICB, he has requested to be excused from the T20 Series and has been granted permission.
Zim 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
West Indies T20 squad:
Darren Sammy (captain), Samuel Badree, Christopher Barnwell, Tino Best, Darren Bravo, Dwayne Bravo, Johnson Charles, Shannon Gabriel, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin, Andre Russell, Lendl Simmons