The Sunday Mail
IT has been really cold in Zimbabwe over the last couple of days.
Yet Zimbabwean hospitality has kept the visiting Australian and Pakistan cricket teams warm.
The teams are in Zimbabwe for the tri-series, which will be concluded by the two visitors in a final at Harare Sports Club today.
During their week-long stay in Zimbabwe, the men from Down Under have been enjoying themselves.
In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Mail Sport last week, Australian coach Justin Langer said being in this brilliant country is something his boys needed after their shellacking at the hands of England before this tour.
“We have loved it after coming from England where we had a really tough tour,” said Langer.
“Making the finals, winning three of our four games and being in the final with Pakistan, the number one ranked team in the world, has been fun and a great opportunity.
“There was a lot going on leading into the tour including my appointment, so its quite refreshing to come here to Zimbabwe, a beautiful country, and relax a bit.
“It has been a little too cold, but it’s nice and relaxed, we have had a good time,” he said.
The 47-year-old coach recalled a train trip to the Victoria Falls when he first toured Zimbabwe during his playing days in 1999.
“It’s funny because the first time I came here l think when we played the Test match many years ago, I just remember a beautiful country.
“We went from Bulawayo to the Victoria Falls on a train and l still remember the African skies you know, beautiful, it was amazing,” he said with a smile.
“And then the second time we were supposed to come, the tour was cancelled before we even played a game of cricket.
“I remember there was a lot of tension, it felt really tense back then.”
Langer said this tour, which is coming just before Zimbabwe’s elections, has gone on very well.
“This time there has been a little bit of talk because of the elections coming up, but everyone seems so happy.
“There’s seems to be some hope here in Zimbabwe
“And there haven’t been security concerns, we have been looked after very well and the hospitality has been amazing.
“Everyone has been great to us. . . we have had a brilliant time and a lot of fun.”
Langer was however disappointed that some of Zimbabwe’s best cricketers missed out on facing the top two T20I ranked sides, but he understands the circumstances behind their non-availability.
“I am really disappointed that some of the boys aren’t playing because in the world we are living in, there are pay disputes and everything. I understand but it’s a shame they didn’t get a chance to play against Pakistan and Australia.
“But for the guys that played, l was fascinated the most with the fielding, some brilliant fielding.
“They (Zimbabwe) showed us the way in this last game we played. Zimbabwe definitely outfield us, they are very good, energetic, very athletic and their throwing is very good most of the time.”
The Aussies also took time off last week to do a social responsibility act under their charity initiative, Cricket Cares, when they visited Hatcliffe extension for a coaching clinic to help some underprivileged children.
“That was a brilliant experience. When you’re in a privileged position, it’s important to use your position to help make a difference, put a smile on other people’s faces.”
Solomon Mire and the towering bowler Blessing Muzarabani impressed Langer.
“There’s plenty of talent there, Solomon is a good player whom we have seen before in the Big Bash with the Renegades. . . I like big Blessing and the way he fields and throws, he is a good cricketer.
“There’s a lot of talent here no doubt. Hopefully they can get a good base to build on the talent.”
Known as a resilient, tough and humble gentleman during his playing days, JL opened up about Australian team culture during his tenure as coach.
He took over the role after one of Australia cricket’s lowest point in history – the ball tempering saga involving then captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and batsman Bancroft during a test against South Africa in Cape Town in March.
“There’s been a lot of talk about our perceived behaviour on the cricket field over the last 12 months, 18 months or so. We have got to improve on and off the field. It’s about respect and good behaviour.
“That’s my mantra. We have to play good cricket.
“Our values are about professionalism, we want to be number one on professionalism, number one in honesty.”
He continued: “Friendship is also very important. All the great teams have got a strong camaraderie, so we want to be number one in mate-ship and look after each other.
“We want to be number one in humility as well, humility is very important, all the great people l know have humility.
“If we do all these things, hopefully we will have a good reputation as the Australian cricket team.