Despite all their difficulties in recent decades, Zimbabwe have managed to continually bring through a succession of exceptionally talented cricketers. Unfortunately, they are becoming fewer, further between, and ever more likely to ply their trades overseas. Good examples from the latest generation are Gary Ballance and Colin de Grandhomme. Nevertheless, the lure of another World Cup has proved to be too much for some who exiled themselves from the poorly-paid politicking, and Craig Ervine and Greg Lamb have been the first two to re-declare themselves as available for selection.
What's their best XI?
The best possible eleven would contain the likes of Ballance, Sean Ervine, et al. To keep this vaguely realistic, I'll just pick the best eleven cricketers who were still available for selection last time I checked. This side doesn't pick itself, because there's a glut of fringe players all vying for four or five places in the side, and even if they did all get on the field, it's unlikely that Mangongo would let them stay together for more than a game or so. That said, this would be my strongest eleven:
Sikandar Raza, Vusi Sibanda, Hamilton Masakadza, Brendan Taylor, Craig Ervine, Sean Williams, Malcolm Waller, Elton Chigumbura, Tinashe Panyangara, Brian Vitori, Tendai Chatara
Who's their star player?
Stephen Mangongo is by far the most influential player in the on-running game of politics and backstabbing that surrounds the highest ranks of the Zimbabwean board. He might not actually be out there on the pitch (yet) but he will be the difference between Zimbabwe fighting for the quarter-finals or scrabbling for last place. Should he choose to flex his muscles and drop Brendan Taylor, ban Tinashe Panyangara, or select Brian Chari, then I can't see anything good coming out of Zimbabwe's visit down under.
Who do they have to pick?
Until recently, Brendan Taylor had strung together a very impressive run of consecutive games without being dropped - that was until Mangongo decided to drop him on the basis of a couple of dodgy innings. His average stands in the mid-thirties in both Tests and ODIs, but since Zimbabwe were re-admitted to Test cricket, he has been their only properly world class player.
The latest Zimbabwean player to come out of Highfield, Harare, Cuthbert Musoko's pace and potential saw him elevated into the Zimbabwe 'A' team just a few months after the Under-19 World Cup came to a close. He has already been playing professional cricket (although not profitable cricket) in the Logan Cup for a couple of years, and has shown a second string to his bow when he co-starred in a 201-run tenth wicket partnership with Luke Jongwe.
What are their prospects?
On both sides' current form, the Ireland-Zimbabwe fixture should be a pretty good game. You would expect this side to dispatch the Emiratis comfortably, but a victory over a fellow Full Member (out of India, Pakistan, South Africa and West Indies) seems pretty unlikely. That said, the current situation between the West Indian Board and their players could throw a quarter-final slot straight into the Zimbabweans' lap. It's a chance they can't afford to waste.