ZIMBABWE’S 3-2 one-day international (ODI) series win over Bangladesh with a young side has been seen as a landmark for the team. The strategy to build on that win, and the measures to be taken in the next 12 months or so, will determine the future of Zi
mbabwean cricket. IndependentSport reporter ENOCK MUCHINJO (EM) talks to Zimbabwe coach Kevin Curran (KC) about the series win and the future.
EM: How does it feel to win the series?
KC: It’s the guys’ first series win in international cricket. I don’t think any one of them was in the side when we last won a series. From that point of view it’s fantastic. It’s good to learn how it is like to win games.
We have enjoyed success in the last three months, from the tri-series in the West Indies against Canada and Bermuda and then beating the South African Academy in the warm-ups leading to Bangladesh, and the Highveld Lions Academy of course.
There is gradual improvement. The SA Academy has all the best young players in South Africa. The players are around the same age with ours. It shows that at this level we’ve got the same talent as South Africa.
I am very happy with the wins. Even when we had our strongest Test side, we only won 10% of our games. Zimbabwe has never had this type of success. I’ve said to the guys “enjoy it while it lasts”.
You have to look at it from a percentage point of view. We are working at 50%. The guys are performing beyond themselves. Winning becomes a habit.
This Bangladesh side has been together for five years, and ours is a young new side, and we have beaten them! You only have to look at that.
EM: What is the way forward after this?
KC: The way forward is to play a lot more four-day games against competitive sides like South Africa A, England A and Australia A as we prepare for our Test return. In fact, Australia A are as good as any Test side. If we play in the region of 10 to16 four-day games, that’s the start we need before we return to Test cricket.
It’s going to get tougher. It takes five to six years to be a good player in international cricket. None of the players has played that long. We must not expect too much too soon. The key is to keep this squad of players. We do not want our best players leaving like in the past.
EM: On that, obviously you would want to get back some of the players who have left to gel with this crop of players?
KC: Well, I’m not sure what their situation is. But we’ve got no option. This is the side we have, and we have to build on what we have.
The doors are open for anyone to come and play. Anyone can come back, and if they are good enough, they will be selected.
I think the bottom line is that everyone wants to see the best team. A lot of people I meet are approaching me to talk about cricket. That is the way it should be.
There are a lot of people who enjoy the game. Let’ not let the game down, let’s not let the people down. The team was winning, and we had good crowds in the last two games. A lot of people tell me they did not know that there was cricket going on. With better advertising, there was no reason we could not get 15 000 people at the ground on the last day.
EM: You admitted before the series-clinching win that the team had not been playing too well, especially in fielding. They won that game comfortably, then lost the final match by eight wickets. How do you explain the lack of consistency there?
KC: In fact if it wasn’t for poor fielding in the two matches we lost, we would have won the series 5-0. And fielding is supposed to be our best point. I said it before the series that the team which fielded better would win the series. It showed when we got all departments right, we won comfortably.
We showed we are a better side than them. We were worthy winners.
But yes, it’s part of the game to be consistent, and we didn’t exactly do that. It’s when you are consistent at this level that you become good players.
In the last match, everything went according to plan up until the last 12 overs. Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor had batted well, but we lost six wickets due to poor cricket. Had we batted to the end we would have won that match comfortably as well. 198 still was a good score. Had we caught (Shahriah) Nafees at four, it could have been a lot different.
EM: Are you now looking ahead to the World Cup next year?
KC: Definitely. The World Cup is some sevens months to away. If you look at our progress in the last four months, we can lift to another 35% before the World Cup. The guys will probably play another 20 one-day games and three or four four-day games before the World Cup. It gives them that much more experience.
EM: Are you planning on the make-up of the squad as well?
KC: I generally know my combinations. The guys know their roles. It makes the task a lot easier. We are working on combinations, but we will generally keep the same squad together.
EM: What are you doing to develop individual players?
KC: Most of the players have not worked out their own game. We are working hard on that. We have a programme, and the guys are responding well.
Prosper Utseya had done well for us with his economic bowling. He’s now the second best economic bowler in the world. Stuart Matsikenyeri has come back and done well. Brendan Taylor has impressed as well. The guys are enthusiastic and working hard.
EM: What plans do you have for some of the young players in the side, for example Tafadzwa Mufambisi, who played two games against Bangladesh, and Tino Mawoyo?
KC: Mufambisi is a talented player, moreso as a wicketkeeper he has good hands. Mawoyo did well when Bangladesh A were here. But there is a queue before he can have a chance. For him to get in, he has to dislodge guys like Sibanda, Matsikenyeri and Taylor.
My idea is to mix and match. I want to see the younger players play in the A sides with five senior players for a couple more years. Pushing the players up will destroy their confidence, and young players normally do not recover from that.
No young player has done well in international cricket at a tender age, apart from Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar. But these are not everyday players.
EM: Could you please explain the proposed rotational arrangement for the captaincy.
KC: The thing is that no one stands out to be captain. The captaincy is given to someone who has been around for some time and is guaranteed a place in the side. We don’t have that luxury.
When we played against Kenya and West Indies, Duffin was the right man at that time. Prosper (Utseya) was the best for this one. If you are captain, you need to be guaranteed of a place. From the way he has played, Prosper has cemented his place in the team, and we knew he would not be dropped.