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EXCLUSIVE | Zimbabwe might sneak the series; Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal can replace Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in T20Is: Hamilton Masakadza | Cricket News – Times of India


NEW DELHI: India didn’t anticipate that their five-match series against underdogs Zimbabwe would begin as it did. They suffered a surprising defeat at the hands of the African nation in the opening T20I. However, the Shubman Gill-led side bounced back impressively, delivering a dominant performance to secure a 100-run victory in the second match, with Abhishek Sharma smashing a century filled with sixes.
With the series now tied at 1-1, the competition has entered an exciting phase.India will look to build on their resurgence and maintain their dominance, while Zimbabwe will seek to spring surprises against the world champions.
Former Zimbabwe cricketer Hamilton Masakadza is confident that Zimbabwe possesses all the necessary tools to put Team India under pressure and achieve positive results in the remaining three matches.
TimesofIndia.com recently spoke with Masakadza, who played 38 Tests, 209 ODIs, and 66 T20Is for Zimbabwe from 2001 to 2019, in an exclusive interview. He discussed Zimbabwe cricket, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma‘s retirement, and much more. Excerpts:
What are you up to these days?
When I finished playing, I moved over to the administrative side. I served as the Director of Cricket. I’ve recently completed my tenure in that role and am now looking forward to what the near future holds. I held the position of Director of Cricket at Zimbabwe Cricket for four years, and I have just finished that stint.
Can Zimbabwe pull off an upset against this young Team India?
That’s the beauty of T20 cricket – anything can happen on the day. It’s a bit different from 50 overs and Test cricket in that performances need to be sustained over longer periods and involve more players. In T20 cricket, one person can change the game on the day. So, I see us having a very good chance, much like the Indian side as well. We’ve been using the T20 format for a while now as a breeding ground and platform to introduce new players. Our team is also slightly younger, with a few fresh faces looking forward to making their mark in the international setup. We’re really looking forward to it. Our team is missing most of the senior, more established players who play in the other two formats, but we’re eager to see what these younger players can achieve at the international level.

Zimbabwe Cricket Photo
Obviously, it’s exciting for us every time India tours us. It’s always something to really look forward to. There’s a lot of talent in the Indian team, and many players are competing for spots in the senior side. We used to have them quite frequently, where they would select the best performers from the IPL and then come straight to Zimbabwe. They did this for three or four years in a row with players like Raina and Kohli. It’s exciting that India is back on our shores. Playing against India is always a significant challenge for any team.
As I mentioned before, in T20 cricket, the format often leads to results going differently. The main difference from longer formats is that you need more than one person to perform consistently, and those who do perform must sustain it longer. In T20 cricket, one individual can easily change the game or even win it single-handedly for their team. So, we’re really looking forward to it. I believe we have a good chance, especially playing at home against a slightly younger Indian side. We’re eager to put them under pressure and confident we can achieve positive results. As you mentioned, we might even sneak the series.
How do you assess this young Indian side led by Shubman Gill?
It’s a slightly younger side with some of the senior guys not coming. Virat had an absolutely brilliant T20I career. I watched him throughout and it was really impressive to see how he mostly came up in those big clutch moments. These guys are hungry to play, but it’s not an easy task to make it into the Indian team. The players who have come over will realize that and they’ll be relishing the opportunity. Even though it’s a younger side, they are very accomplished players. In IPL cricket, some have already played international cricket. So yeah, there’s good competitiveness, and it’s going to be exciting to see the new talent and what they bring to the table.

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BCCI Photo
Regarding Zimbabwe captain Sikander Raza…
I think the philosophy has been to play a very exciting brand of cricket, and that’s exactly how we approach the game as well. So, we’re looking forward to that. The team is very positive, aggressive, and always opts for the positive approach whenever they have the chance. They go out there to play and put the opposition under pressure. Sikandar has been quite brilliant for us over the past three years or so, in all formats. He’s really performed very well. As you mentioned, he’s been playing in all the leagues, including the IPL, so he’s learned a lot and gained valuable experience as a leader. I’m really looking forward to his leadership because, as I mentioned, he’s a very positive and aggressive player, and I expect his captaincy to reflect that positivity. He will always opt for the more aggressive approach whenever he gets the chance.
Should other teams besides India also tour Zimbabwe? What’s your take?
Yes, we’re looking forward to a few more teams coming to our shores before the year is over. We’re playing against India now, followed by an away match. Towards the end of the year, we’re expecting Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Ireland to come and play as well. It’s something we really anticipate. Our home games have been fantastic in terms of fan support. The fans have been brilliant and awesome in the last qualifiers we had. We even had to close the gates because we didn’t have any more space for our fans. They’ve been really supportive. Any team coming to play cricket in Zimbabwe can expect a great atmosphere and strong home support, which really motivates the boys. It has also been beneficial for the opposition because some teams have come here and picked up on the songs that our supporters sing, taking them back home, which shows the impact our home crowd has on them. So yes, we’re looking forward to more cricket and more support at home. We have three more series lined up at the end of the year.
Do you think more Zimbabwean players should be given a chance in the IPL?
Yes, I think in this modern era, with the leagues growing the way they are, we expect more players to start getting called up. The challenge is quite different from international cricket because you end up playing alongside players you normally compete against. This allows you to learn from people outside your usual circles. It’s very beneficial for players to participate in these leagues, and we look forward to more players being picked, not only for the IPL but for other leagues worldwide as well. We’ve already seen Blessing Muzarabani being called up, and Sikandar Raza, Sean Williams, and young Richard have also started receiving call-ups. We hope to see more players getting similar opportunities. We’ve seen the significant impact leagues and international call-ups have had on teams like Afghanistan, where almost their entire team plays in leagues. Their improvement as a team is evident because of this. So yes, it’s something we’re looking forward to, and we hope more players will have these opportunities.
The ICC T20 World Cup is scheduled for 2026, co-hosted by India and Sri Lanka. How do you assess Zimbabwe’s chances for the T20 World Cup?
It was very disappointing that we didn’t make it through to the recently concluded T20 World Cup in the West Indies and America. We know exactly where we made errors and fell short. We’re looking forward to the next qualifiers and correcting the mistakes we made in the last qualifiers. We aim to return to the biggest stage. Zimbabwe is a team that can spring surprises, as we did in the World Cup in Australia when we beat Pakistan. We believe our team should be at all major tournaments, so it was really disappointing not to qualify for the recent one. But we’re looking forward to the upcoming qualifiers and making it to the next T20 World Cup.

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Zimbabwe Cricket Photo
There was a time when Zimbabwe dominated cricket. With players like Andy Flower, Grant Flower, and Heath Streak, what do you think caused the decline in Zimbabwe cricket?
Sometimes it’s been guys making the wrong decisions at the wrong times. A big part of cricket is being able to read situations and react to different challenges better. So, I think that’s where we’re falling short a little bit. Some of our decision-making as individuals and as a team has been found wanting. But that’s expected when you have a younger group of players coming together, and they are slightly inexperienced. However, I’m sure they have learned a lot from the qualifiers and recent series, including the matches we just had in Bangladesh. The players are growing all the time, and I think they are on the right path towards rectifying their mistakes.
The biggest reason why we haven’t crossed the line in recent times has been not reacting well enough to pressure and not handling the situations effectively that have been presented to us. This is something the players will learn from, and they will learn quickly.
Regarding batting sensation Rinku Singh…
I think Rinku is a very good power hitter, clean hitter of the ball, and a very good finisher. So, he’s just one of the batters that we obviously have to look at. I think Parag has also been doing very well, as well as Jaiswal, Gill, and the list is endless. As I mentioned, we’re expecting some tough competition. Personally, I’m really looking forward to seeing Rinku kick on. I know he’s already had a few games for India, but he hasn’t really had a solid run and a solid spot in the team, which I think he’ll have on this tour. So, I’m looking forward to watching how he will play. He’s a very exciting player and a very good finisher, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he brings to the table in Zimbabwe.
You’ve played against Virat, Rohit, and Jadeja, who recently retired from T20Is after India’s T20 World Cup win. Any message for them?
A brilliant career. Cricket will be poorer. T20 cricket will be poorer after they’ve left. Just to say thank you for all the memories they’ve left us. They really entertained us a lot and left us with many memories. Jadeja is the ultimate competitor, both with ball and in the field. He obviously changed his game towards the end of his career to be a bit more aggressive and to kick on a bit earlier, showing us a different side of him. His selflessness, along with all his skills as a captain and his technical and tactical astuteness, were lovely to watch.
Virat is really the player for the big occasion, the player for the big game. His big match temperament was exemplary to watch. So yeah, just to say a big well done to all three for such sterling T20 careers, and we’re looking forward to watching more of them in other formats as well. At least we still have them with us, and we’ll still be entertained by them. But a big well done for all the work they did in the T20 format, especially for winning the World Cup in their last outing for India. They did well in all three T20 careers.
Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma have left a big void after their retirement. Which two players in the current squad do you see as apt replacements for these legends?
It is a big void, difficult to replace such players. But then again, with India, the pool of players is so wide and there’s so much talent there. I’m sure India won’t struggle to find players to replace them. But yeah, to find players who can reach the levels that those three did is going to be really difficult. I’m really looking forward to watching the growth and improvement, especially of Shubman Gill. I’ve watched a little bit of him in all three formats and I really love what I’ve seen. He’s one player who can really step up to replace the guys who are leaving. Yashasvi as well. He started off brilliantly in his international career. So those are definitely a couple of players to look out for, players who can go a long way towards filling the huge void left by those world-class players.
Watch India Tour of Zimbabwe T20I series on Sony Sports network





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