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‘Excited to See How India Will Play in World Cup’: Craig Ervine Has High Expectations from Virat Kohli and Team India | Exclusive

Zimbabwe lost out on a World Cup spot for the second consecuitive time despite being one of the betters teams during the World Cup Qualifiers. Their five wins in the competition were not enough as the team once again fell agonisingly short to qualify for the main draw. However, rather than sulking in the disappointment, the players had something new and exciting to look forward to – Zimbabwe’s own cricket league – the Zim Afro T10.

The first season of the league successfully concluded on July 29, 2023 with Durban Qalandars as the winner. Zimbabwe captain Craig Ervine led the Qalandars to an eight-wicket win against Johannesburg Buffaloes. This win under Ervine meant the beginning of transformation in Zimbabwe cricket and it became a source of inspiration for many young cricketers in the country.

In an exclusive conversation with CricketNext, Ervine opened up about the significance of Zim Afro T10 and how it came with the potential to groom young Zimbabweans in near future.

“Zim Afro T10 gave an opportunity to the young players to showcase their skills. Someone like Tadiwanashe Marumani, who played for the Samp Army, did extremely well. So, Zim Afro opened the doors for the young guys. Possibly, they can now be in some of the other leagues as well where they wouldn’t have had the chance to feature if this T10 tournament wasn’t here. So I think not only the youngsters but everybody who was involved got a chance to network with the other players. So, it’s a great opportunity for Zimbabwe cricket and hopefully this is the start of something special,” said Ervine.

Zim Afro healed the wounds that Zimbabwe got during the qualifiers. The team started off well, registered a famous win over the West Indies and then fumbled at the end of the tournament, leading to the disqualification. Rewinding to the classic win over the Windies, Ervine said, “In the match against the West Indies, there was so much excitement and then disappointment and then excitement and disappointment that it was an emotional roller coaster.”

From the start of the match, West Indies were the favourites and then suddenly or might call it preposterously, the match turned and Zimbabwe sealed the win by 35 runs. It’s for sure that June 24, 2023 will be engraved in Zimbabwe’s cricketing history and will be remembered for years.

“We knew that if we turned up on that day and played our best cricket, then we would have a chance. I think, batting first, we scored 260 odd runs and we thought that we were a little bit under par. And then we thought, getting early wickets is going to be a key thing. Sean Williams captained the guys out in the game, and he did an exceptional job. I was actually sitting up in the change room, watching and thinking that I probably would have been on the field, captaining the side because I had got no control sitting in the change room and watching.

But overall, guys were very excited when they walked off that field. Guys were probably relieved more than anything else. But yeah, I’d been very excited to have turned that win over the West Indies into a final one but unfortunately didn’t quite get us the final ticket,” said Ervine.

Zimbabwe failed to book a World Cup spot as Scotland defeated them by 31 runs in the Qualifiers. Back-to-back blows against Sri Lanka and Scotland changed the overall dynamics of Zimbabwe’s game.

Ervine stated, “I think if you could look back in hindsight, you could probably look at a number of things. One was about playing really good cricket in Harare and then going down to Bulawayo and having to adjust to conditions there. But, when I look back at it now, Sri Lanka were a very good side. There were certain points in both the games where it just changed the game on its head. Theekshana’s spell was really good against us in the middle. Then if we talk about Scotland, Chris Sole’s spell was also incredible. I think you have to accept the fact that sports sometimes goes that way. Those two performances, I think, were the turning points in both games.”

It’s only the second occasion since Zimbabwe’s tournament debut in 1983 that their team won’t be playing in the ODI World Cup. However, what’s more disheartening is the fact that they will not be playing in the World Cup for a second time in four years. The World Cup qualifier loss came as a shock to the cricket fans in Zimbabwe but Zim Afro T10 landed at the right time when the nation needed it the most.

Ervine appreciated the timing of Zim Afro T10 and said, “I think the timing of Zim Afro T10 was really good because it shifted the focus away from the qualifiers. I suppose, it diluted the disappointment from the qualifiers. Guys shifted to Afro T10, a fast paced game where exciting players came to Zimbabwe. I think it had a really good timing. Hopefully, guys can look back and be satisfied that over the qualifying period, we all gave our utmost best and unfortunately, we just didn’t get over the line.”

Though Zimbabwe didn’t manage to qualify for the World Cup, they are excited about the tournament. Ervine expressed his expectations from the upcoming marquee event and said, “I’m really excited to see how India will play in the World Cup. Obviously, we played our qualifiers here in Zimbabwe so we know the extra pressures that there might be of playing at home and the expectations of playing at home. But I also know that India will play some of their best cricket at home. So, I think it’s going to be an exciting spectacle and I would like to see Virat Kohli scoring a lot of runs in the World Cup.”

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