New Zimbabwe national cricket team coach Andy ‘Bundu’ Waller has sprung into action on a mission to reinvent the team, restore pride and recapture the respect and resoluteness of the 1990s.
Report by Kevin Mapasure
As Waller officially takes over from Steve Mangongo who reverts to his position of assistant coach, the 53-year old former Zimbabwe international opened up to IndependentSport about his plans and targets.
As expected, the former Namibia coach is looking to restore the competitive edge of the team manifest during the 1990s.
His first assignment is a five-match, One-Day-International series against India on home soil in July, before the Pakistanis’ tour of Zimbabwe in August ahead of Sri Lanka’s visit. During the recent Bangladesh tour Zimbabwe managed a Test 1-1 draw, ODI series 2-1 victory and a T-20 draw, preceded by tour whitewash defeats in the West Indies and New Zealand.
There is little time between now and Zimbabwe’s next Test assignment against Pakistan, but Waller has identified key areas he has already started working on.
Fitness first “There are things that I have identified which I want to change in the next three to four months,” Waller said. “I also have long term targets which we should achieve in about a year or two but the first short-term change that I want to effect is fitness. I do not think all players in the national team right now are at the level of fitness and conditioning they ought to be.
I think fitness is a major factor and we will be working on that in the next six weeks.” Part of his plan to improve the fitness levels of the players is to hire Tom Summers of Yorkshire whom he wants to come in and lay out a programme for each of the players which they can follow with local fitness trainers.
The former right hand batsman places fitness issues high on his priorities so much that he wants the fitness expert to continue working with the team.
“When the players went to the West Indies they could see that their opponents were fitter and in better condition. Summers will help us improve; I want bowlers to know which areas to work on and likewise for the batsmen.”
Waller was regarded as an outstanding fielder during his time when he played two Tests and 39 ODIs and he wants some of that magic to rub onto his team.
“The second aspect of the game that we have to work on is fielding. We were probably the best fielding side in the 90s and we need to improve and get back to that. It was bad in the West Indies but it improved against Bangladesh which means Grant Flower and Steve Mangongo were doing a great job, but we can still do better.”
Play for pride Waller wants his players to value their places in the national team and be proud of representing their country. “I want the players to realise how much they are privileged to be playing for Zimbabwe.
I want them to feel proud about representing their country, wear that kit with honour and go out there to perform. And the fourth aspect of the game that I want us to improve on is discipline. I will introduce a code of conduct but the players will meet and come up with that. For example they will determine what fine should be paid for coming in late.
Punctuality is important, I want professional discipline. Generally I want players to be proud to make it into the final 11 because of all the work they would have put into it.”
Since he was given the job Bundu has been doing his homework and has identified issues with Zimbabwe’s pace bowling. “I have video clips recorded in Bulawayo and I think we need to work on the fast bowlers. They can’t put the ball where they should on a regular basis.
I will be talking to individuals and try and see how we can improve them.” Fun for the fans While Waller’s core business is to improve performance on the playing field he also wants to see the crowds that he used to see as a player in the 1990s.
“I believe if I do my job properly people will flock back to the Harare Sports Club and Queens. We want to see people filling up the seats, people buying tickets in advance just to watch their team.
That way we can attract good sponsorship, but first of all we need to get back that competitive edge and start beating top sides like England.
“I played four ODIs against England and we won all of them, that’s what we need, if we are competitive top sides will want to play with us more. I keep referring to the 90s, back then we were all matures but we competed and now we have professionals who are just as talented if not better than us.
So why can’t we compete?” An oasis of talent While he has identified Zimbabwe’s weaknesses he is pleased to come back home and discover depth in talent. “I think now we have about 24 players that can play in the national team. That is good depth; when we played there were about 15 players capable. I want every player to know that if you fail to perform there is someone working hard to replace you.”
While Waller wants his team to compete he will seek more than just playing five days in Test matches without winning. “We will play every game to win; we will surprise a few teams. We are not going to play for anything else other than winning. We will make sure it’s never easy to beat us, any team will have to work for a win.” Talent drain is one of the problems that have bedeviled Zimbabwean cricket in recent years.
Gary Balance is a prime example of local talent that has chosen to play for other nations. Waller wants to plug the drain by making the national team an attractive team to play for. “I do not want to lose a whole generation.
I have a few players out there that I intend to speak to so that they can come back and play. I understand the reasons why some of the them left but we can still get these players back and we also need to make sure we do not lose more.”