Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) yesterday (Saturday) evening launched a cricket academy made up of 16 young players.

The Zimbabwe Rising Stars Cricket Academy will tour the United Kingdom for six months as part of efforts to develop the promising youngsters at international level.

The academy is meant to create a pipeline for players from the U-14, U-17, U-19 Zimbabwe development side, Zimbabwe A and ultimately the Chevrons to ensure the country remains competitive in test, ODI and T20 cricket.

During the UK tour, the academy will play four fixtures against English county sides, academies, universities and colleges.

Zimbabwe Cricket Board chairman, Tawengwa Mukuhlani said performance at international test matches is the yardstick by the ICC and the idea behind the academy is to bridge the gap between senior international cricket and domestic competitions.

The Minister of Sport and Recreation, Makhosini Hlongwane, who was the guest of honour at the launch dinner, said the academy was crucial for the success of sport and cricket in the country and implored ZC to integrate the girl child into the development programme to make it complete and all inclusive.

Former national cricket captain and convener of selectors, Tatenda Taibu, who is the brains behind the project, said the team would take 16 players overseas each year for the next five years to take local cricket to a higher level.

The young 16 players in the inaugural rising stars academy touring side are promising players from former U-19s including captain Ryan Burl, Tarisai Muskanda, Mohmmed Favaz Khan, Carl Mumba, Richard Ngarava, Kuziva Ziwira and William Mashinge, among others.

The coaches are Stuart Matsikenyeri and Tatenda Taibu and Alec Gezi, while UK-based Nick Gordon, a public relations, marketing and sport consultant is the team’s Liaison Officer.