BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
ALREADY affirmed as one of Zimbabwe’s most consistent one-day players, Craig Ervine is set to further cement his status as one of the most gifted players of his generation in white ball cricket when he plays in his 100th One Day International (ODI) game during the upcoming series in Sri Lanka.
Zimbabwe’s opening ODI against Sri Lanka on January 16 in Kandy will bring up a century of one-day internationals for Ervine, who debuted against India in May, 2010 as a dashing 24-year-old tipped to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Sean, who had taken his talents to the English County scene.
In fact the left-handed middle order batsman made an impressive entry into international cricket, striking an unbeaten 67 that guided Zimbabwe to a famous sic-wicket ODI victory over India at Queens Sports Club in 2010.
He went on to make his Test debut in Zimbabwe’s historic comeback triumph over Bangladesh in 2011 after the country’s six-year self-imposed exile.
However it has been in the ODI format where Ervine has flourished more and his upcoming milestone will make him just the 18th Zimbabwean to feature in 100 ODIs.
“I’m very excited to get to 100 ODI’s,” Ervine told StandardSport just before the Chervons’ departure for Sri Lanka yesterday.
“When you start your career you never know if you will make these sort of milestones so to be able to have that opportunity is very humbling,” he said.
In addition to the impeding milestone, Ervine will also have the honour of leading the side after being retained as stand-in captain for the tour.
The 36-year-old veteran of 99 ODIs, 18 Tests and 34 Twenty20 Internationals took over the captaincy duties from Sean Williams ahead of the limited-overs tour to Ireland and Scotland in August-September last year.
After leading the side admirably during the previous tour, Ervine is set to continue in the leadership role after being entrusted with the responsibility to lead Zimbabwe once again by Zimbabwe Cricket.
“Again it’s a huge responsibility (to captain the team) and I feel a number of guys can do it, so I am grateful to have been given another opportunity to lead my country and I hope I do justice to the position and lead from the front,” he said.
Ervine leads a 15-man squad that includes the uncapped duo of opening batter Takudzwanashe Kaitano and former Zimbabwe Under-19 wicketkeeper batsman Clive Madande who have been rewarded for their form on the domestic scene.
Twenty-eight-year-old Kaitano, whose only previous appearance for Zimbabwe came in a Test match against Bangladesh in Harare in July, will be seeking to make an impact in white ball cricket.
All-rounder Tino Mutombodzi, who last played for Zimbabwe during their tour of Bangladesh in March last year has returned to the national side.
Ervine, who is amongst the several experienced players in the squad together with Sean Williams, Sikandar Raza, Tendai Chatara and Regis Chakabva, is anticipating a tough series in Sri Lanka.
“Sri Lanka is going to be a tough opposition for us especially being in Sri Lanka but we have to look at it as another opportunity to pick up points in the Super League and play our best cricket with more pressure being on Sri Lanka as they are expected to win,” he said.
The ODI series will commence on January 16 with the last two games to be played on January 18 and 21.
All the matches which are art of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League will be played at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium in Kandy and will be day-night affairs.
SQUAD: Ervine Craig (C), Burl Ryan, Chakabva Regis, Chatara Tendai, Jongwe Luke, Kaitano Takudzwanashe, Madande Clive, Madhevere Wessly, Masakadza Wellington, Mutombodzi Tinotenda, Muzarabani Blessing, Ngarava Richard, Raza Sikandar, Shumba Milton, Williams Sean