ZIMBABWE national cricket team batsman Charles Coventry is excited at the prospect of joining Brendon Taylor as an opener at the 2011 International Cricket Council World Cup to be played in Asia next month.
Coventry, who has mostly played as a middle -order batsman for Zimbabwe, is hotly tipped for promotion to the top alongside Taylor, after regular openers Hamilton Masakadza and Chamu Chibhabha were left out of the World Cup squad.
Coventry told IndependentSport this week in an exclusive interview that the World Cup was an opportunity for him to do well again in national team colours.
“I am both excited and a little bit surprised as well, but I think this is my best chance to do well after the selectors showed faith in me by recalling me into the national team,” said Coventry. “Opening the innings with Taylor will be a big challenge but it’s one I have set myself for since the rumour started making the rounds. Facing the new ball is a tough challenge. I have done it before at provincial level but internationally it’s a different thing altogether, especially facing teams like Australia and Pakistan.”
The highlight of Coventry’s career is easily his big innings against Bangladesh where he hit an unbeaten 194 batting at number three, the highest individual score in a 50-over game at that time — an achievement which was later surpassed only by Indian superstar Sachin Tendulkar.
Despite his big innings against Bangladesh Coventry has had a stop-start career which led the chairman of selectors, Alistair Campbell, to describe him as a “hugely frustrating” individual.
“To be honest Charles Coventry has been a hugely frustrating guy to deal with. We have put in so much effort in developing him but he hasn’t been performing,” said Campbell last week.
The Tuskers batsman agrees, and is well aware of his deficiencies and is working on improving his shot selection going into the World Cup.
“I have gone out a few times when everyone including me felt I could have kept my wicket and batted through. This is what they (the selectors) want me to do but I think a few times I have gone for big shots and got myself dismissed unnecessarily. I have to work on that and I think I will give a better show at the World Cup,” he added.
Pooled in a tough group that also includes holders and number one ranked ODI team, Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka New Zealand, Canada and Kenya, Zimbabwe will have to win at least three matches if they are to make it through to the Super Eight stage.
But Coventry said there was no fear factor in the group and Zimbabwe will be targeting an upset against a New Zealand team that has struggled of late.
“We have to take the game to our opponents, play attacking cricket and not let them bully us. We are capable of beating anyone; we have shown that before by beating Australia at the Twenty-20 World Cup. It’s going to be tough but if we apply ourselves fully we can go through to the next round.”
His sentiments were echoed by his captain Elton Chigumbura who is also targeting a win against New Zealand in the group stages.
“We will fancy our chances against New Zealand who struggled the last time they were in the sub-continent,” said Chigumbura. “They lost all their matches against Bangladesh and they clearly struggled against spin. We have a very good spin attack, so we will capitalise on their frailties and hopefully we will get a positive result.”
Chigumbura, who is desperately in need of runs himself, said that he was hoping to turn things around in Asia and finally make a big innings.
“I have had a loss of form, but I know I am just an innings away from getting back to my best. I have been working hard on that and I have also been working on my bowling with Heath Streak,” he added.
In their morale shattering 3-1 series defeat at the hands of Bangladesh, Zimbabwe’s batsmen struggled in the face of spin with only Prosper Utseya who does not even bat in the top six managing a half-century throughout the series.
Chigumbura said that his team would have to do better with the bat and avoid losing wickets in the first 15 overs.
Zimbabwe will play four warm-up matches before the start of the World Cup, one of them against the Proteas, with Coventry likely to bat at the top of the batting line-up.