Zimbabwe go into today’s first Twenty20 international against Pakistan at Harare Sports Club with captain Brendan Taylor confident that the players have put their most recent scuffle with the board behind them.
The month-long tour will see the two sides face off in two Twenty20 matches, three one-day internationals and two Tests, but Zimbabwe’s preparations were thrown into disarray last week when the players refused to train after negotiations over unpaid salaries and future contracts broke down.
Although the players came to an agreement with Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) on Friday last week and returned to training, fast bowler Kyle Jarvis announced on Sunday that he was quitting international cricket in favor of a county contract.
Nevertheless, Taylor expects his side to move on mentally as they look to present a challenge to Pakistan.
“I think we’ve all been around long enough to put that aside now,” Taylor said in a telephone conversation. “ZC have met us in the middle and there’s nothing more to harp on about it. We’ve discussed this as players and it’s time to move forward, and try and represent our country as well as we can.”
Taylor admitted that Jarvis’ decision had come as a surprise to his teammates and he hoped that the 24-year-old would return to play for Zimbabwe in the future.
“I just felt he was a little bit premature to leave Zimbabwe Cricket, but he’s old enough to make his own decisions and see what’s right for him,” Taylor said. “I would like to have seen him develop more as a Test bowler and then filter that down into the one-dayers and Twenty20s. Not to be, but in three years’ time he’ll only be 27 — there will always be an open door for him, and hopefully he can come back with the added experience and carry on his international career.”
Pakistan won every match on their last tour of Zimbabwe in 2011 and will expect to complete a similar sweep over a side that recently lost all five one-day internationals against an understrength India.
“We don’t want to be complacent in any way, including our preparation,” Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore said. “We may be playing Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe, but these are still very important matches for Pakistan.”
Mohammad Hafeez is set to lead Pakistan in the Twenty20 matches today and tomorrow, but the tourists will be without wicketkeeper-batsman Umar Akmal after he suffered a mild seizure last weekend during a flight to Jamaica, where he was due to play a match in the Caribbean Premier League.
His replacement in the squad, Sarfraz Ahmed, is expected to take the gloves.
The 23-year-old Akmal will see a neurologist for further tests, an official said on Wednesday.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said further professional advice would be taken on Akmal, who on his return on Tuesday insisted he was fit to play, despite the scare.
“The PCB is arranging an appointment for Umar with a neurologist to seek professional advice on his medical condition,” a PCB spokesman said.
Medical reports from the West Indies suggested a seizure, but the PCB wants to reassess Akmal’s condition.
“It [the appointment] is one of the steps that the PCB will be undertaking in assessing the medical problem that occurred to Umar while he was in the West Indies,” the official added.
Akmal was dropped for Pakistan’s failed campaign in the ICC Champions Trophy in England and Wales in June, but made a successful return in the series against the West Indies last month.
He stayed in the Caribbean and played in the Twenty20 Caribbean Premier League for Barbados Tridents.
Neurologist Saad Shafqat, who is also a well-known cricket writer, said Akmal would not have to worry as long as the MRI scan is clear.
“If the MRI is clear then there will be no problems, it will be controlled,” Shafqat said. “At Umar’s age epilepsy is light and we don’t take it as a serious disease.”
Akmal made his mark in international cricket with a debut Test century in New Zealand in 2009. He has played 16 Tests, 76 one-day internationals and 45 Twenty20 internationals.