ZIMBABWE “A”, CFX Academy and Mashonaland cricket coach and former national player, Kevin Curran, likes talking about how he is the only Zimbabwe coach not to lose a Test and one-d
ay international series while in charge of the national team.
You see, when Dave Houghton stopped coaching Zimbabwe in 2000, Curran was assigned on a temporary basis for the home series against New Zealand. The two sides drew the Test series one-all, with Zimbabwe triumphing 2-1 in the best-of-three ODI series. After the series, new substantive coach, Australian Carl Rackermann, replaced Curran. And with that Curran left with his record unscratched!
Curran was Zimbabwe’s assistant coach at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003 tournament which was hosted by South Africa and sub-hosted by Kenya and Zimbabwe. However, the 46-year-old coach parted ways with the team after the World Cup and joined ICC Associate Member nation Namibia as national team coach.
“I would have loved to stay on with the Zimbabwe team when Carl Rackermann came, but there were problems between me and the union and I decided to take the Namibian offer. We won some tournaments during my tenure, and improved significantly,” said Curran.
He took up coaching in the early 1990s after a noteworthy playing career that saw him playing county cricket in the United Kingdom — the first Zimbabwean after Independence to do so. A genuine all-rounder who opened the bowling and batted in the top six, Curran played for Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire in the English county league for a total 15 years up until 1998.
Representing Zimbabwe in the 1983 World Cup in Australia was the highlight of Curran’s career. A young talented Zimbabwe team led by captain Duncan Fletcher, the current England coach, startled the cricket world by beating a stalwart Australia side that included the likes of famed pace bowler Dennis Lillee and wicketkeeper Rod Marsh.
“We had quite a good side. Our captain, Fletcher, was fantastic. None of us played professionally and so no one gave us a chance in the World Cup,” said Curran.
“We batted first and scored 230 runs, which was not a very big score. Australia chased well, and their opening batsman, Kepler Wessels (the South African who later returned to play for his country of birth) had a good game.
But after a spell of good performance by our bowlers, we managed to put sufficient pressure on Australia and ended up getting wickets. In the end Australia needed 18 runs from the last over to win,” he added.
Like many other former Zimbabwe cricketers, Curran believes Zimbabwe should have got Test status back in 1985.
“I think the team we had those years was the best we have ever had. We only lacked recognition otherwise we could have played Test cricket as far back as 1985. Our record speaks for itself. We won 20 games in a row during that time against young Australian, English, New Zealand and West Indian teams,” he said.
On his coaching strategy with the Zimbabwe “A” side, Curran said his aim is to expose his players to a lot of cricket and prepare them adequately for Test cricket.
“My philosophy is to make the players mentally and physically tough so that it does not become a big step when they get selected to the national team. I want to see players get fit and identify their weaknesses at a tender age.
It’s the same thing at the Academy. I would want to see half of the Academy graduates playing for the national team. We work on the psychological and physical parts of cricket, and a lot of other stuff. What we offer is the overall package,” Curran said.
After a rather scrappy start when he just could not be on the winning side, Curran’s work finally produced fruit when the national “A” side won the one-day series against Bangladesh “A” recently.
With the return of the rebel players and availability of national team players for Zimbabwe “A” selection, Curran said it would become a more difficult task to select players for the “A” side and the national team.
“The younger uncapped players now have to score big hundreds in the Logan Cup to get selected because now there are more players vying for Zimbabwe “A” selection and eventually the national side,” he said.
However, Curran pointed out that the inclusion of players without enough first-class experience may have counter results.
“I would rather see the younger guys play in the “A” side for two to three years and then select them for the first team when they are ready. We have players already in the national team who are not ready for that level of the game and it destroys their confidence,” he said.
With the Logan Cup having started on Tuesday and Pakistan “A” set to tour next month, Curran has another opportunity to impart his expertise on the young players.