Chevrons crisis deeper than Rajput

19 Jun, 2022 - 00:06 0 Views
Chevrons crisis deeper than Rajput

The Sunday Mail

Tinashe Kusema
Deputy Sports Editor

WHILE Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) may have decided to appoint Dave Houghton as coach with a mission to usher in a new era for the troubled Chevrons, it remains to be seen if the change in coaches will not turn out to be just a cosmetic exercise.

ZC finally called time on Lalchand Rajput’s four-year spell at the helm of the Chevrons’ coaching department, which ended on a whimper as Afghanistan won their final T20 match by 35 runs at Harare Sport Club last week to complete a 6-0 white-ball sweep over the hosts.

Rajput cut a dejected figure as the Chevrons came short in the chase of a modest total of 126, the same time ZC’s hierarchy was meeting to discuss the 60-year-old’s fate.

And not too long after that dismal performance, his fate was sealed, with ZC opting to replace him with former Chevrons captain Houghton.

“We are delighted to be bringing in Dave and we count ourselves fortunate and privileged to be able to appoint such a vastly experienced and highly respected head coach at a time we are looking to improve our on-field performances,” read a statement from ZC.

“With Lance Klussner having also bounced back as batting coach, we believe we now have a formidable technical team that can push for World Cup qualification and ensure our players put in consistently competitive performances.”

Rajput was moved to a less influential role of technical director.

It appears he is taking the large chunk of the blame for Zimbabwe’s abysmal performances over the last four years.

And, with 21 wins, 74 losses and one tie in 96 games, Rajput naturally becomes the fall guy.

But Zimbabwe’s problems run deeper than the head coach.

In fact, there is enough blame to go around.

The series defeat to Afghanistan at Harare Sports Club cannot be considered an upset victory by the Asians.

They are now ranked higher than Zimbabwe in both white-ball formats and currently enjoy a better head-to-head record against the Chevrons.

The two nations have played 28 matches between 2014 and 2022, with Afghanistan winning 18 in the ODI format.

It gets worse in the T20 internationals in which the two sides have met 15 times, with the Asians winning 14.

In Rahmat Shah (29), Hashmatullah Shaidi (46) and Najibullah Zadran (48), Afghanistan have more players ranked in the Top 50 ICC batting rankings than Zimbabwe, who have only Sikandar Raza (40) and Sean Williams (47).

In the bowling department, Afghanistan have three players in the top 20 in Mujeeb Ur Rahman (5), Mohammad Nabi (9) and Rashid Khan (11), while Blessing Muzarabani is a distant 39 and Tendai Chatara way down at 60.

In the T20 format, Afghanistan have four batters ranked in Top 50 — Hazratullah (12), Nabi (30), Zadran and Rahmanullah Gurbraz —  and only young Wesley Madhevere is ranked 40.

In the bowling department, Khan is ranked fourth in the world, while Rahman and Nabi are 13 and 36, respectively.

Chevrons’ Luke Jongwe is rated 37.

All this put into context, a series loss to Afghanistan is not as far-fetched as many would want to believe.

While Afghanistan have made steady strides to improve their game over the last couple of years, Zimbabwe have actually dropped down the pecking order.

Afghanistan, Ireland, Scotland, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Netherlands now enjoy superior ODI rankings over Zimbabwe.

Two of those nations (Afghanistan and UAE) have even overtaken Zimbabwe in the T20 format.

It is similarly worrying that Zimbabwe now struggle to win against Bangladesh, who have overtaken the Chevrons in every facet of the game.

Although they have wielded the axe on Rajput, ZC administrators also deserve the biggest portion of the blame, as they have become masters of smoke and mirrors.

The coincidence of Houghton’s appointment and Zimbabwe’s humiliating defeat to Afghanistan, whether intentional or otherwise, is just too striking to ignore.

Upon announcing Houghton as the new head coach, the discussion quickly changed to how the 64-year-old can usher in a new era and not about how the Chevrons had just failed to chase down a modest total of 125 on home soil.

Never mind the fact that Rajput signed a contract extension when his deal came to an end last October and had only just arrived back in the country in April after he spent two months in his native India owing to work permit issues.

Rajput is set to remain part of the system as technical director, whatever that means, and it remains to be seen how effective he can be as he shuttles back and forth between Zimbabwe and India.

The way ZC have handled the Rajput case — in which they chose the cheaper option of reassigning him rather than fire him outright — is one in a series of boobs that those within the corridors of power at the union have made during the last couple of years.

After all, who can forget the appointment of Chamu Chibhabha as white-ball skipper when he was in the middle of his struggles with form and a long-term injury.

The 35-year-old top-order batter should have been nowhere near the Chevrons, let alone the captaincy.

Instead, he should have been given time to rest his body and rediscover his form.

ZC have also done a ‘stand-up’ job in running the game, as the domestic league is stagnant and as a result churning out half-baked players into the national team.

There is nothing in terms of development, with schools’ cricket playing second fiddle to sports like rugby, football and sometimes even hockey at most local institutions.

The domestic league barely plays enough games, while the level of cricket on display is often found wanting at the international stage.

Apart from Muzarabani and Raza, there are not enough players playing at the level required to produce regular match-winning performances.

ZC would be better served to identify core members of that team and try to attach them to more competitive environments.

After all, Raza and Muzarabani have largely benefitted from their dances with more competitive leagues.

The Chevrons have also become largely dependent on the duo, so much that when they sneeze, the whole team catches a cold.

Zimbabwe also do not have a consistent opening batting partnership and the top-order has more often than not been identified as the team’s weakest link.

The bowling department is too heavily reliant on Muzarabani.

While there have been bright sparks here and there from the likes of Richard Ngarava and Jongwe, consistency is still lacking.

The hope now is that Houghton can change all that, or, at the very least, the team’s fortunes on the field of play.

ZC will no doubt also bank on the fact that he comes with plenty of pedigree from his playing days.


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