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ICC CRICKET WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS 2023

The qualifiers for the ICC Cricket World Cup qualifiers start June 29th in Zimbabwe © Getty

Watch West Indies and Sri Lanka play ODIs for free. Also for free, see serial World Cup visitors like Ireland and the Netherlands in action live and in person. Spend as little as USD2 on a ticket to an international final. Terms and conditions apply.

One: be in Harare or Bulawayo from June 18 to July 9 for the men’s World Cup qualifying tournament, where the field for the global showdown in India in October and November will be completed.

Tickets, which went on sale this week, for group matches that do not involve Zimbabwe are free of charge. Entry to all other games, including the Super Sixes from June 29 to July 7 and the final in Harare on July 9, costs from US2 to USD10. In a world short on bargains, that is the genuine article.

Zimbabweans have become accustomed to that level of privilege, which is unavailable in other cricketminded countries. Tickets for internationals in Zimbabwe have been pegged in the USD2 to USD10 bracket for some time, and crowds have swelled. Even a relatively lowkey affair like the Zimbabwe Select XI’s series against Pakistan Shaheens in May was well attended.

It isn’t often that words like “Zimbabwe” and “privilege” appear in the same sentence in a positive sense. The country has been beset by political, economic and social challenges since arch colonist Cecil John Rhodes planted a Union Jack there late in the 19th century. The country started its journey towards democracy in 1980 and 20 years of prosperity followed. But after 2000 Zimbabweans not cushioned from reality by money and power have been in survival mode more often than not.

How are things now? “The potholes have got bigger but apart from that everything else seems to be doing OK,” Ray Price, a dogged left-arm spinner in 140 matches for Zimbabwe across the formats, told Cricbuzz from Harare. No doubt the imminent appearance of nine international squads had helped brighten the mood.

“We’re so happy to be having cricket here,” Price said. “It’s huge for us. We haven’t had a lot of cricket, especially Test matches. All the top nations are always so busy. So any form of cricket is welcome. We’re really excited to have the World Cup qualifiers here.”

Zimbabwe has hosted only 65 Tests, not least because they played their inaugural match as recently as October 1992, and due to their team not playing any anywhere from September 2005 to August 2011 because of administrative problems.

But it sticks out that, measured from Zimbabwe’s first Test, England has staged 201 – more than three times as many as the Zimbos. Australia, South Africa, India, Sri Lanka and West Indies have all hosted more than double Zimbabwe’s number of home Tests since the latter played their first.

Zimbabwe’s most frequent Test visitors have been Pakistan and Sri Lanka, who have each played a dozen matches there. New Zealand have turned up for 11 Tests, and Bangladesh and West Indies eight each. But India have played only six there, England two and Australia one. South Africa, Zimbabwe’s immediate neighbours to the south, have ventured north of the Limpopo River for just five Tests.

From the first ODI in Zimbabwe, in October 1992, 259 have been played in the country. India, Australia, England and South Africa have each had upwards of 100 more in that time. Zimbabwe saw the first of its 67 home T20Is in June 2010 – since then 219 have been played in the United Arab Emirates, 122 in Rwanda, 120 in India and 101 in Bangladesh.

Whichever way you spin it Zimbabwe is among international cricket’s lesser destinations despite having been a full member of the ICC for almost 31 years. Simply, the game isn’t as popular and – more importantly – as profitable in some places compared to others.

None of which means much when the international circus comes to town, when it can feel, to Zimbabweans, as if their country is the epicentre of the world game. The coming weeks will be one of those times.

“I’m sad we won’t have a crack at West Indies before anybody else,” Price said. “We’ve beaten them in the first match after they’ve arrived in Zim, because they seem to start slowly. But they’re got two games [against the US and Nepal] before us, and by then they could be in full flow.”

Again, terms and conditions apply. West Indies have played nine bilateral series or tournaments in all formats in Zimbabwe, and have lost their first game against the home side once – in an ODI in Harare in November 2007, in which Price played.

But his optimism was typical of the Zimbabwean outlook. If you don’t look for the chinks of light you might be swallowed by the gloom. One lonely win and, as they say in those parts, its happy days.

© Cricbuzz

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