Zimbabwe captain hopes experience of playing in Bangladesh conditions will help the team qualify for main draw
"We came out here and played against the Bangladesh A team, played a few games against few good players," said Taylor on Sunday (March 16), alluding to the 33 One-Day Internationals Zimbabwe has played in Bangladesh – the highest for the team outside its country. "We know these conditions. With the national players in tournaments like the BPL (Bangladesh Premier League), it does help.
"But we are also coming up against opposition we are not familiar with. That can be tricky. Each team will have a match-winner.
"We are expected to go through and we believe we are good enough to do that. But having said that, Ireland is a good team, Netherlands have got some good players and so have UAE and we have to play our best cricket to do that."
Taylor admitted that Zimbabwe needed a jolt like the one it received against Hong Kong in the warm-up game a few days ago, where it lost by four wickets. In its second warm-up game, however, it beat Afghanistan by seven wickets.
"We probably needed that get a bit roughed up. We struggled against Hong Kong, probably the poorest performance we have had in a number of years. They have got some match-winners and they came over and got them over the line. It is great to see world cricket is getting stronger,” he said.
"We came out and played the way we know we can against Afghanistan, who are proving quite a decent side at the moment. Hopefully we can carry some sort of momentum into the next match. "We have never been in a situation like this. It is very tricky for us. We realise we are going to have to play tough cricket."
Afghanistan has been a team that has shown consistent improvement over the past few years. In the recent Asia Cup, it beat Bangladesh by 32 runs to record its first win over a Test-playing nation. "They are improving all the time. They have got some really hungry players and some match winners. They are really setting the bar for Associate teams. And they are really closing in the gap between the Test nations, which is good and healthy for cricket. It is crunch time now, so the better team on the day is going to come through," said Taylor.
It’s been seven years since Zimbabwe pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the ICC World Twenty20 tournament, beating Australia in its first outing in 2007. However, the team has been on a downward spiral since, having lost all its five matches in three tournaments.
Taylor stressed on the fact that Zimbabwe will be the team to beat in the qualifiers if it clicks, adding, “Unfortunately we have not played as much cricket as we would have liked to. We have trained very hard as individuals and as a team. We are experienced players, some of us have played over a 100-150 one-dayers. There is no excuse. Players need to step up. We have been around for a number of years so hopefully we can keep improving and be a force to reckon with," he said.
Qualifying for the main draw will do Zimbabwe a world of good – not just in terms of confidence for the players, but for cricket in the nation. "To be honest with you, I don't think we are producing enough cricketers. Our Under19s have just played in the World Cup and we feel they could have done better,” explained Taylor. "We need to blood a few more young players in our franchise system and I am sure the board is working hard to do that. We have a small pool of players to choose from."