ZIMBABWE Cricket’s ongoing revival exercise will receive a major boost in the next few weeks with the arrival of former Australia Test bowler Jason Gillespie to coach the Midwest Rhinos franchise.
Gillespie, now 35, will replace former Zimbabwe batsman Andrew Waller at the Kwekwe-based franchise, runners-up in last season’s Logan Cup competition.
Waller will now concentrate on his job as a national coaching manager.
Gillespie was previously in the running for the England bowling coach post.
Kenyon Ziehl, the former national head selector who is now the Rhinos chief executive, broke the news to IndependentSport this week.
“He’s going to be our head coach,” Ziehl said. “He is replacing Andrew Waller, who is looking after coaches throughout the country. He has his portfolio there.”
Ziehl said Gillespie- who played 71 Tests and 97 ODIs for the Aussies as a right-arm fast-medium bowler- was delighted at the prospect of working in Zimbabwe.
“He is excited about it,” he said. “He is bringing his family along, wife and three kids. He has heard all about Zimbabwe cricket’s resurgence and wants to be part of it.
“We’ve secured him nice accommodation in the town (Kwekwe). Hopefully he will enjoy the experience. It’s a huge adventure for him. It’s a season’s contract. If things work well we will always extend it.”
Although Gillespie has an unbeaten double century to his name as a nightwatchman, against Bangladesh in 2006, his spell with Rhinos will mainly benefit the bowlers.
“The boys are very excited, especially the bowlers,” Ziehl said. “Players from the other franchises now want to join our team to learn from his bowling expertise. It’s a huge thing for the franchise; an ex-Australian Test bowler coming here. The whole community is excited.
“The batting has been good, (Vusi) Sibanda, (Brendan) Taylor and (Riki) Wessels have done well for us. It’s nice to have a head coach who is a bowling expert to help on the bowling side. Our fast-bowling department has been lacking in Zimbabwe Cricket.”
Throughout his career, Gillespie was a reliable support bowler over several years for his more famous teammates, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. With Warne, he developed into part of Australia’s most statistically successful opening pair.
He made his Test debut against the West Indies in 1996, taking 259 wickets at an average of 26,13.
Born Jason Neil Gillespie on 19 April 1975 in Sydney, he is the first person of Aboriginal background to become a Test cricketer.
Meanwhile, Logan Cup champions Mashonaland Eagles are set to lose their coach from last season, Chris Silverwood. — Staff Writer.