Brendan Taylor and Kyle Jarvis, both back home after county stints, have been included in Zimbabwe's Test squad to play West Indies in a two-match series starting on Saturday. Solomon Mire, the Australian-based allrounder, has also been named in the 16-man group and is in line to make his Test debut.
All told, Zimbabwe have made seven changes from the squad that last played a Test in Sri Lanka with no space for Ryan Burl, Tendai Chatara, Tarisai Musakanda, Carl Mumba, Natsai Mushangwe, Nathan Waller or Donald Tiripano. Of those, only Chatara could not be considered through injury.
Wicketkeeper Nyasha Mayavo and left-armer Tendai Chisoro are the other uncapped players named in the squad. Mayavo may miss out to regular gloveman Regis Chakabva and Chisoro will have to battle for his place alongside veterans Chris Mpofu, the returning Jarvis and Michael Chinouya, who was not part of the Test squad that traveled to Sri Lanka. Chamu Chibhabha is the other player who was not part of the Sri Lanka squad that has been included this time.
The new-look Zimbabwe squad marks the start of a new era, in which Zimbabwe have actively sought the return of players who left the country to seek financial stability elsewhere. Under new managing director Faisal Hasnain and with a more secure governance structure in place, convener of selectors Tatenda Taibu was able to oversee Taylor, Jarvis and Mire's commitment to the national cause.
While Jarvis is certain to open the bowling and add much-needed pace, swing and aggression to a usually pedestrian Zimbabwe attack, Taylor and Mire will slot into a line-up that is taking on a more solid appearance. Hamilton Masakadza, Craig Ervine, Sean Williams, PJ Moor and Sikandar Raza have all recently scored Test centuries, adding to Zimbabwe's new-found confidence.
Though Zimbabwe's main aim over the next few months is to work towards 2019 World Cup qualification, they are also seeking to play more Tests, especially now that there are two newer Full Members, Ireland and Afghanistan, in the mix. This year, they are scheduled to host West Indies and will then travel to South Africa for the inaugural four-day Test, which will also be played under lights. There is also talk of a series against Afghanistan likely to be played in the UAE before the World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe in March.
As a Test team, Zimbabwe have not recorded impressive results of late, having last won a match more than four years ago, against Pakistan in Harare. They have since played nine Tests, five at home, three in Bangladesh and one in Sri Lanka and lost them all. But, Zimbabwe showed signs of progress and took Sri Lanka close in Colombo. Despite a major shake-up to the squad that managed it, they will hope to do the same to West Indies at home. Both Tests will be played in Bulawayo.
Zimbabwe Squad: Graeme Cremer (capt), Hamilton Masakadza, Solomon Mire, Chamu Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor, Sikandar Raza, Sean Williams, Malcolm Waller, Peter Moor, Regis Chakabva, Michael Chinouya, Chris Mpofu, Kyle Jarvis, Tendai Chisoro, Nyasha Mayavo