Prosper Utseya, the Zimbabwe captain, has said his side will be under pressure to perform on the tour of Bangladesh in order to prove their place among the top teams.
During their 16-day stay in Bangladesh, Zimbabwe will play a triangular series, also involving Sri Lanka, followed by a three-match ODI contest against the hosts. They begin their tour with a three-day game against Bangladesh's Academy team, which starts on January 6.
"We are currently out of the Test arena and, as we speak, I hear some people are saying we mustn't even be playing ODIs," Utseya told the Associated Press. "This is distressing. We need to go there and show that we still belong here. Our aim is to reach the tri-series final and win the series against Bangladesh."
Zimbabwe have not played a Test since 2005, and lost 11 of their 12 ODIs - three were abandoned - in 2008. They recently lost a home series against Sri Lanka 5-0, although they did challenge a below-par opposition, and also suffered a defeat against Kenya. Their only win of the year was a 156-run victory over Ireland.
"The pressure is on us against Bangladesh because we should be beating them," Utseya said. "Previous Zimbabwe teams used to beat them quite easily. We recently lost 5-0 to Sri Lanka but against Bangladesh the pressure is different. We are sort of in the same league, Nos 9 and 10 on the ODI rankings, and when you play another lowly team there is always pressure to win."
Besides hosting Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe's only other high-profile engagements last year were the Twenty20 tournament in Canada, a five-ODI series in Pakistan and a tri-nation tournament in Kenya. "The guys are excited to be touring again," Utseya said. "We had a good Christmas break and satisfying training afterwards. We are all positive going into the tour."
During their last visit to Bangladesh, in 2006, Zimbabwe lost all five ODIs and a Twenty20 international. Bangladesh defeated them 3-1 in the ODIs on their return visit in 2007.