Zimbabwe banks on home support

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FORMER Chevrons skipper Brendan Taylor believes home advantage will see them qualifying for next year’s cricket World Cup in England. 
Zimbabwe won the bid to host the world cup qualifiers last September ahead of United Arab Emirates and a joint bid from Ireland and Scotland. 
Taylor said playing home would increase the odds for the team to qualify for the next edition of the World Cup.
“Hosting the tournament is a fantastic feeling. It is clear we have to qualify and playing at home will certainly help,” said Taylor speaking to Zim cricket. 
“It will mean everything. The end goal is massive. We have no doubt in our mind we will qualify. There has to be a certain amount of respect for each team, but qualifying is our daily goal and that is what we are working towards,” said the former Nottinghamshire player. 
Zimbabwe are the most successful team in the history of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier (known as the ICC Trophy until 2005), winning the competition three times in 1982, 1986 and 1990, and have not competed in the event since 1990 as they earned direct qualification for all World Cups from 1996 onwards.
With a 95,8 percent success rate (23 wins out of 24 matches with one no-result), Zimbabwe have never lost a match in the tournament; a record they will be determined to keep when they host the event from March 4-25.
And the fact that they will be the most experienced side with over 900 total ODI caps, they will fancy their chances when they launch their campaign at Queens Sports Club on Sunday. 
Zimbabwe, who go into the qualifiers on the back of a humiliating 1-4 series loss to Afghanistan, hope for better fortunes in Group B where they need to finish in the top three to qualify to the round of six.
Zimbabwe and West Indies are the pre-tournament favourites to reach the finals and qualify for the World Cup. 
This is Zimbabwe’s only chance together with Afghanistan, Ireland and the West Indies, to qualify for the ICC’s pinnacle 50-over tournament after they finished in the bottom four of the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Rankings at the September 30 2017 cut-off date.
The Chevrons are in the same group with Afghanistan, a side that has always given Zimbabwe a headache.
At least they will not meet in the group stages.
Teams in Zimbabwe’s way are Scotland and Hong Kong but, all things being equal, pose little danger to Zimbabwe’s ascendency. 
West Indies skipper Jason Holder has since declared the country’s intention to qualify for the World Cup.
Windies are ranked ninth.
“We see this as a very important tournament. We all know the magnitude and importance of this event as we look to qualify for the World Cup in the UK next year,” the media quoted the 26-year-old, who has played 70 ODIs in a five-year international career. 
“It will be a challenge and we sat down and have formulated plans as to how best to approach the tournament. 
“It will be short and we will treat every match as a must-win game — with three teams from each group moving into the Super Sixes and the top two moving to the final — thereby earning a spot at the World Cup, there is all to play for.” 
Meanwhile Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai believes their experience in playing in Zimbabwe will count as they have not struggled in the country. Afghanistan, ranked 11th in the world, have been on a steady rise in the gentleman’s game.  
“We are very much looking forward to the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 in Zimbabwe. The team has been involved in preparations for this highly important event over the past six months by taking part in a number of training camps with specific focus on fitness and drills. We are hopeful that the boys will perform to their best in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018.
“Although the playing conditions in Zimbabwe are different, we have played against Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe and this will be helpful in terms of familiarity with the pitches in Harare as well as Bulawayo. 
“We have played well in Zimbabwe previously and our aim is to repeat that and play positive cricket against the opponents in order to qualify for the ICC Cricket Word Cup 2019.” 
Nepal captain Paras Kadka believes cricket has blossomed in Nepal saying they have the youngest side at the tournament.  
“The way Nepal cricket has blossomed in the past 15-odd years is reflected in the composition of this side. We have played well in various age-groups, regional and qualifying events, which has given cricket the much needed lift and boost. As a result, we have some young but outstanding cricketers who have immense talent,” said Khadka. 
“The ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier will be a stepping stone for most of the cricketers and will undoubtedly give them further experience and exposure. 
“Sandeep Lamichhane’s selection for Delhi Daredevils is an evidence of the talent we have in our ranks. Opportunities like the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier will not only put us on the world map but will throw more talent which can be tapped by other leagues and franchises.”  
Khadka said his side will not be overawed by the teams taking part in the three-week tournament. 
“All the sides will arrive in Zimbabwe with the ultimate dream of qualifying for the World Cup, and we will be no different. We played good cricket in Namibia and now want to carry the momentum in the qualifiers. Whatever the outcome, this tournament will be a great opportunity for all of us to put Nepal on the world cricket map and help the next generation of Nepal cricketers,” Khadka said.

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