Zimbabwe cricket coach Stephen Mangongo believes his team can cause a few upsets and sneak into the quarterfinals of the upcoming 2015 ODI cricket World Cup penciled for Australia and New Zealand early next year.
By Munyaradzi Madzokere
With the World Cup still a good five months away, the national cricket team is already in camp preparing for the Bangladesh Tour where they will play three Test matches and five ODIs, while one eye is on the global showcase.
“I keep saying and I repeat that statistics don’t lie; we are number 10 on the rankings and we have less than five months to put in hours of hard work if we are going to make an impression at the World Cup,” Mangongo told Standardsport.
“We want to do better than last time, we want to win a few games and make sure we don’t come home early. So our objective is to go there and be very competitive, surprise one or two big teams and ‘sneak’ into the next round and I say ‘sneak’ because in reality we are well down the rankings,” he said.
In his short tenure as national team gaffer, Mangongo masterminded a famous three-wicket victory over World Cup hosts Australia at Harare Sports Club last month, the first in 31 years despite the squad’s poor showing in the Tri-Series that also included neighbours South Africa.
“The win against Australia was no fluke, it was a result of sheer hard work and it was very good for the players. Now they have confidence on their side, they believe they can beat anyone and hopefully we are going to have many more great moments in future,” he remarked.
Mangongo expressed satisfaction at the response of his players to his methods and work ethics, asserting that all the players ticked the boxes in the areas of hardworking, commitment and role playing.
The former Takashinga and Mountaineers trainer torched debate last month when he dropped leading batsman Brendan Taylor from the team during an ODI Series against the Proteas in August and threatened to wield the axe on all underperforming senior players.
He still contends that no-one is guaranteed a place in the team that will hoist the country’s flag in Australia and New Zealand.
“At the moment I don’t have an idea of who will be going to the World Cup. We are still a long way and everybody playing professional cricket in this country has an equal opportunity of going, but basically the performances of each individual in the coming fixtures will determine who goes,” declared Mangongo.
There are, however, areas that the coach feels need urgent redress in order to improve the team’s condition in fine-tuning for the World Cup.
“We admit that our top order batting is a problematic area because we always find ourselves three wickets down after 10 overs in many matches, which is not good at all. We are still looking for the right combinations and we will continue to look until we find [it],” he said.
Players such as Hamilton Masakadza, Brendan Taylor, Tino Mawoyo, Sikandar Raza Butt, Vusi Sibanda, Richmond Mutumbami, Regis Chakabva and Sean Williams have been tried in the top order in the last two months, albeit with very limited success.
Mangongo also spoke of the need to have more ODI matches especially after the Bangladesh Tour to ensure that his players have adequate match practice in the run up to the World Cup.
Zimbabwe are in Pool B of the 2015 Cricket World Cup alongside South Africa, India, Pakistan, West Indies, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates.
They kick off their campaign against South Africa on February 15 2015 while their final group fixture is against India on March 14 and the top four teams will progress to the “Super Eight”, quarterfinal stage of the competition.