‘I won’t take credit for Chevrons transformation’

The Herald

Eddie Chikamhi

Senior Sports Reporter

ZIMBABWE national cricket team coach Dave Houghton has refused to take the credit for the Chevrons’ remarkable transformation in the last few weeks which saw them going on a flawless campaign in pursuit of T20 World Cup qualification and the recent milestone win over Bangladesh in the home T20I series.

The Chevrons hit a new milestone on Tuesday when they recorded their first T20I series over a high-ranked side following the 10-run victory in the decider at Harare Sports Club. It was also their first bilateral series win at home in the shortest format in almost two decades of trying.

Zimbabwe, who had gone through a run of depressing results, including a recent tour whitewash by visiting Afghanistan and the embarrassment by Namibia, have been playing differently of late.

The sudden change of fortunes coincided with the arrival of former Zimbabwe captain, Houghton, for his second stint as national team coach.

Houghton has been preaching about positive cricket and it appears his charges are responding well to the gospel. The Chevrons were hopeless when he arrived but the current vibe feels like the hand of time could be turning back to 1999 when he led Zimbabwe to the Super Six at the World Cup.

And what has been the secret?

“It’s perhaps what I am not telling them is the secret to the whole thing. Not just now but even in my own playing time, we were psyched that if the chips are down we will play our cricket in such a way to save face; “just don’t get bowled out in 20 overs, if you only get 110 runs it’s okay.’

“All I have said to these guys is that they will never get any admonition from me if they get out trying to play an aggressive shot.

“If the shot doesn’t work out and you lose your wicket, learn from that and next time choose a different option. But you will not get any admonition from me.

“I want you to put your foot down on the accelerator and be positive at every opportunity. So that’s what’s happening. These guys know they can go and play the game.

“They have no fear that if we lose they are going to come in and get a round of abuse from me as a coach. If we lose it’s a learning experience, it’s not something to be depressed about,” said Houghton.

For Houghton, it is the players who take the credit for performance on the field.

“You know, Duncan Fletcher was my first captain and is one of the greatest coaches around. He used to say “how much do you think your percentage of the game belongs to the coach or is the coach’s input?”

“And when we didn’t answer he said “well, 90 percent is the player, five percent is the coach and five percent is luck. So in terms of who takes credit for this, I think I explained it just now.

“It’s probably more of what I don’t do than what I do that gives these guys the confidence to go and play the game the way they are playing it.

“From my point of view, when I came to this side, I have seen these guys playing in franchise cricket and they have extremely good skills.

“All they needed was someone to unlock the door for them to use the skills on the middle and that’s all I have tried to do by freeing them up. . . So in answer to the question I have five percent to do with it (the transformation),” said Houghton.

The 65-year-old former Zimbabwe star was appointed coach two months ago and was in charge when the Chevrons sealed their place at this year’s ICC T20 World Cup with a clean sweep in a qualifier held in Bulawayo.

The 2-1 T20I series win over Bangladesh was the latest round of success after Zimbabwe nailed a 10-run win over Bangladesh at Harare Sports Club. The coach, however, is not getting carried away in the euphoria.

“It’s little steps first. We don’t want to get carried away with the fact that we have been winning for two weeks. When we start getting consistently good over a period of one or two years then we can start to look at where our progress is taking us.

“At the moment we have won a T20I series and we have qualified for the World T20 qualification stage, so we haven’t exactly counted every step but we certainly got ourselves a boost,” said Houghton.

Zimbabwe are now set to play Bangladesh in an ODI series which begins tomorrow at Harare Sports Club. Afterwards, they have more daunting assignments later this month when they welcome India before touring Australia for a limited overs series.

“I think when we talk about our schedule over the next month-and-a-half or so, we’ve come from playing an associate member tournament basically, and then we’ve come up against Bangladesh who we know are a very good side particularly in white ball cricket.

“Then straight after that, we take on India and Australia. It just couldn’t get any harder. So I am looking for some successes in this one-day series,” said Houghton.

“Of course, it’s nice to go in with a bit of confidence, having won the T20I series but we haven’t played a 50-over game in a long time.

“I also haven’t been involved with these guys in a 50-over game in a long time. So we will see how it goes but I am looking for some success in one-day stuff as well. I hope we can take the series.”

The Chevrons recovered from a poor position to win the T20I series decider by 10 runs, sending the passionate crowd at the home of Zimbabwean cricket into a frenzy.

Houghton was highly impressed by the fighting spirit of his team.

Man-of-the-match Ryan Burl (54) and Luke Jongwe (35) teamed up down the order to give the home team something to defend after a mini-collapse at the top.

The Chevrons recovered from a poor 67/6 after 13 overs and went on to put 156/8 at the end of their 20 overs.

The bowlers, led by the impressive Victor Nyauchi then restricted the visitors to 146/8, to seal a 2-1 series win. Nyauchi was the peak of the Zimbabwe bowlers with his 3/29 while Brad Evans also made a big contribution with 2/26.

The duo were not part of the two games and Houghton was impressed by the performance. Going forward he would want to have good depth in his squad. Zimbabwe missed two key bowlers Tendai Chatara and Blessing Muzarabani who picked up knocks just before the series.

“I wanted to see what we could get out of Victor and Brad Evans. It’s important for us that we are not just a good 11. We have got to be a good squad.

“I have said to the guys a number of times that we can change the players within that squad and we shouldn’t see a different standard out in the middle and I think this (the final) was a good example. . .

“The big thing for me is, we can’t just be 11 people because we won’t survive like that. We have to have a squad that can play. Practices leading up to all these games I had a squad of 20. I have to pick 11 from that squad and any formula you want should produce the same (results),” said Houghton.

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