ZIMBABWE Cricket’s appointment of experienced Indian coach Lalchand Rajput to take charge of the Chevrons for the triangular Twenty20 International (T20I) series involving Australia and Pakistan in Harare in July, is a step in the right direction.
After the disappointment of the country’s failure to qualify for the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup in England and Wales, and the chaos that erupted following the axing of coach Heath Streak and his backroom staff, there was need for the game’s leaders to find a way to try and steer the ship from all this turbulence.
We were all disappointed with the way we failed to grab one of the two tickets for a place at the next World Cup, especially the heartbreaking manner of our failure, where our boys somehow conspired to self-destruct when everything appeared set for them to qualify.
There can never be any justification for us losing such an important game, like we did, against the minnows of the United Arab Emirates in a game where we only needed to win and qualify for the World Cup.
That we lost the game in our backyard, in conditions we are familiar with, against a side that every team had beaten in the Super Six was as bad as it can ever get and when our boys needed to show their quality, they somehow froze and blew away a great opportunity.
Given that it’s the first time since our first appearance at the World Cup in England in 1983, that we will be missing from the showcase, the wounds from that failed campaign have taken longer to heal and the scars will haunt us for a long time.
But we cannot mourn forever, we cannot live in the past forever, and that is why it is important that we had to find a way to move forward and the ZC leadership’s decision to appoint an interim head coach for the Chevrons was very important.
Rajput is highly qualified, vastly experienced and a well-respected coach in the game and was in charge when India won the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in 2007.
He was also Afghanistan’s head coach when the Asian country attained Test status.
He also coached the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League, while his stellar work as the coaching director of the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s National Cricket Academy is well-documented.
Raiput also distinguished himself as a player and was a solid opening batsman, who played Test and One-Day International cricket for India.
The new coach will work closely with the national selection panel headed by Walter Chawaguta as convener of selectors, Kenyon Ziehl and Prosper Utseya.
The Twenty20 International tri-series will be held at the Harare Sports Club and will give our Chevrons a chance to get back into action after the disappointment of their World Cup failure.
Pakistan will then stay on for an ODI series comprising five matches to be staged at Bulawayo’s Queens Sports Club from July 13.
Refreshingly, Rajput, who is expected to arrive in the country next week, has been saying some nice things about his latest appointment and he appears to be a man who is fully committed to his mission.
“It’s a very good cricket country. A lot of great players have come from there,” he said. “I always feel that I like challenges. I was with Afghanistan and they made a turnaround and got Test status.
“When I was with Afghanistan we played against Zimbabwe and beat them in ODIs and T20s, so I know a few of their players.
“I felt that it’s good for me as well as them to use my services so that I can make a difference to the team. I can’t change things overnight, but I can definitely prepare them to play better than what they have been performing. The main thing is consistency.”
Cricket showed, during the World Cup qualifiers, that it has evolved into a major sporting discipline in this country and has millions of fans who follow it religiously.
There were full houses every time the Chevrons were in action during those World Cup Qualifiers in Harare and Bulawayo and, in the final match against the UAE, we saw — for the first time in the history of the game — thousands of fans being locked out of Harare Sports Club because the ground could not take any more supporters.
It’s important, therefore, that this sporting discipline provide the millions of fans who support the game the results that they want and we are happy that some underhand efforts to try and disrupt the game, with some key players being coerced into abandoning the Chevrons, have failed.
Already, we have seen Craig Ervine playing in the domestic games, which shows his commitment to the cause, and Brendan Taylor, whom we believe should be named the captain of the team, has now come forward to declare that he remains committed to playing for his country.
We have to move on from the disappointment of that World Cup failure and we are happy that steps are being taken by the leadership to ensure that happens.