Mashonaland Eagles enjoyed a successful limited-overs season last year, winning one competition and finishing runners-up in the other, but they will be haunted by a disastrous Logan Cup campaign where they finished well at the bottom of the log, without a single victory to their credit.
With the loss of several key players, they may well struggle to improve on that this season.
The losses of Kyle Jarvis who went to England, and Raymond Price, who retired, were already known. But last year’s captain, Stuart Matsikenyeri, has also retired (although there are hopes it may only be temporary) at the age of 30 – the sad loss of an excellent player who never quite fulfilled his potential.
Forster Mutizwa and Innocent Chinyoka have joined Mountaineers, while Mark Mbofana has gone to Mid-West Rhinos. In addition, wicketkeeper-batsman Regis Chakabva will be available for December only, as he has signed up to play club cricket in Australia for the rest of the domestic season.
On the positive side, Mashonaland Eagles have made a significant gain in Brian Vitori, who has joined them from Southern Rocks, as he is currently studying at Speciss College in the capital. Mark Vermeulen will also be available for the team this season, although he has been given only a “pay as you play” contract.
The leg-spinning all-rounder Tinotenda Mutombodzi has taken over as captain. He was selected in preference to two senior players with captaincy experience – Elton Chigumbura and Prosper Utseya – partly due to the expectation that these two will miss a large chunk of the season on international duty at the International Cricket Council World Twenty20 Cup in Bangladesh next year.
Remaining stalwarts of the team are Sikandar Raza and Chamunorwa Chibhabha, and it is hoped that seam bowler Tatenda Gumunyu-Manatsa will be fit to play regularly and successfully. The others will have to fight for regular places in the side, and this includes the powerful attacking batsman Cephas Zhuwao, who has done brilliantly in one-day cricket but never done as well when given a chance in first-class cricket. It is to be hoped that the “Chris Gayle” of Zimbabwe cricket will be able to make an impact on the Logan Cup, and will receive backing from the coach Stephen Mangongo to launch his strokes freely on the opposing bowlers.