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Pride Or Bust For Zim Cricket

WALTER Chawaguta, the Zimbabwe cricket team coach, could afford a sly grin yesterday as he surveyed his charges play Uganda in a warm-up match at the Ruaraka Sports Club in downtown Nairobi.

He has just come out of his first full assignment as national team coach with both pride and reputation intact, after Zimbabwe took bronze in a quadrangular Twenty20 tournament in Toronto, Canada which was won by Sri Lanka.   
That performance in Canada has managed to keep the wolves at bay –– at least for the time being –– after critics questioned his elevation to the top post two months ago despite his lack of experience. But the former Zimbabwe Under 19 and A side coach knows all too well his credentials will be fully tested with the triangular series against Kenya and Ireland, which begins in Nairobi this morning.
Having had his first test of international cricket in charge at the Twenty20 level, Chawaguta begins his first test in traditional format of the game in this tournament.
Anything less than a convincing win over the two ICC associate countries will be considered a failure, considering Zimbabwe’s lofty status as a Full Member of the ICC.
And Chawaguta is fully aware of expectations back home.
“After Toronto, I can’t say that I’m excited, but at the same time, I’m not disappointed,” Chawaguta told IndependentSport here yesterday. “There is a lot of hard work to be done, and fortunately for me, it’s all got to do with the mentality of the players. We have had some success, but we have some issues too. Our batting is still an issue, we have had two or three guys, guys like Hamilton Masakadza and Tatenda Taibu coming through but not getting the necessary backing.
“Our pace-bowling is improving although I’m not entirely happy. But our spinners Ray Price and Prosper Utseya have been outstanding, and Timmy Maruma is also coming up pretty fine.”
The former first-class all-rounder said he is not overly concerned about not having won against the big boys, Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the Canada Cup.
He said: “I’m more concerned with the process, and not necessarily on winning this or that match. We are focusing more on this process where we will build on the positives and work on our weakness, which we are doing at the moment and I’m happy with how the players have been responding and I am pretty confident we can only move forward as a team.”
He is undaunted with the prospect of meeting an inform Irish side under former Zimbabwe coach Phil Simmons, and a Kenya team desperate for results after a recent run of poor form.
“You are only under pressure when you play sides less experienced than you are and you are expected to beat them convincingly. But that is not the case in this form of the game because anything can happen, no matter who you play. Our biggest problem, though, could be complacency.
“We are aware of it; I have spoken with the players about the danger of underrating the opposition. The players are ready for the challenge. We have to win all our matches convincingly, and I have no doubt we have the necessary quality and experience to win the series here,” said Chawaguta.
Zimbabwe open their account against Ireland this morning and play their second match of the tour on Sunday against the hosts. The second round of matches begin on Tuesday with the top two teams meeting in the final on October 25.
It is a tournament Zimbabwe will be desperate to win, if only to convince their critics the team still deserves its place as a Full Member of the ICC. Both Kenya and Ireland have full One-Day International status, but are considered two of the strongest members of world cricket’s second-tier league. Chawaguta said he would only name his side late last night.

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