Shashank Manohar, the ICC chairman, will spend five days in Zimbabwe to meet with government officials and with members of Zimbabwe Cricket © Getty Images
Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) is hopeful it can host the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, and will look to convince the ICC chairman Shashank Manohar that it can do so when he visits the country on Tuesday.
Manohar will spend five days in Zimbabwe on a trip that includes meetings with government officials such as the country’s vice-president and sports minister, and with ZC hierarchy. His visit will conclude with a trip to Victoria Falls, where plans to build a cricket ground could resume, after initial efforts – which were due to start in 2011 – were delayed.
Manohar’s visit is a boost to a country that has been on the fringes of global cricket for the last 15 years, largely due to political unrest and economic meltdown. Though they have remained an ICC Full Member during that period, Zimbabwe went on a self-imposed exile from Test cricket between 2005 and 2011 and have been a rare sight on the international stage since then. Since their comeback six years ago, Zimbabwe have hosted 12 Tests, 63 ODIs and 18 T20Is and have only been on four away tours.
Most recently, they visited Sri Lanka, where they won the ODI series and competed convincingly in the only Test. Under coach Heath Streak and managing director Faisal Hasnain, Zimbabwe are starting to create a more sustainable structure and regular playing opportunities. They spent the winter touring Scotland and the Netherlands before the full series in Sri Lanka; they are due to host West Indies in October this year and are in talks to play Afghanistan at the end of the year as they build up to the World Cup qualifiers in 2018, which will decide which two teams join the top eight at the 2019 tournament.
The qualifiers were due to be held in Bangladesh, but since they are likely to qualify automatically – they are now ranked 7th – it will need to be moved. Zimbabwe, the UAE, and Scotland and Ireland (joint hosts) are vying for hosting rights.
Zimbabwe has a few things in its favour, most notably the weather. The qualifier is scheduled for June-July 2018, when, even though it will be winter in Zimbabwe, conditions are dry and pleasant.
A potential concern is whether the country has the facilities to host a multi-team tournament. Zimbabwe largely play their home international cricket at two venues – Harare Sports Club and Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo – but there is talk of adding an academy ground as an additional option.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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