PATIENCE and perseverance finally paid off for Steve Mangongo as he landed the top cricket coaching job in the country, but he will exercise less tolerance for underperforming senior players in his tenure as national coach.
After years of waiting in the wings, often overlooked in searches for the national team coach and at best given peripheral roles, Mangongo was finally given the mantle to run the affairs of the national team.
The decision arrived at the same time with a new low for the team, which succumbed to Afghanistan in their fourth One-Day International to square the series. Mangongo is thus on a mission to lift the spirits and reinvent the team.
For him there is only one way to look and it is up the rankings; he will not allow underperforming players to continue being a source of disappointment for the cricket-crazy multitude.
“We have underperformed for a long time and the time has come for us to be bold and make the right decisions,” said Mangongo. “We will not hesitate to chop dead wood and we will not hesitate to unleash raw genuine talent if experience fails us.”
What is particularly striking about Mangongo is his appetite for success at all costs, his will to win and the demand for extra work.
After a dispiriting 2-all draw with Afghanistan which Mangongo said was a defeat for Zimbabwe, the former national team selector was excited about the challenge to restore lustre in the national team.
“It’s a challenge for us to lift the team again, but it is one that I am looking forward to and excited about. I will demand a lot but I will also be pragmatic. Associate members we should thrash and we should surprise teams ranked above us. We have been too inconsistent and I have taken it upon myself to turn it all around. First the administration has to play its part and then the main actors, the players, have all the work to do.”
The players might get a glimpse of what to expect from him when he took charge of the national team in their home tour against Bangladesh last year.
“Each player will be held accountable for his roles, and the day you do not execute your role well I will look elsewhere. I would rather have young hungry talent learning than to have the experienced players continuously underperforming. The current group of players has played against all cricket nations in the world, but some of their performances do not show.”
Opening batsman Vusi Sibanda has already learnt how tough it’s going to be after he was dropped from the Afghanistan series after failing to get runs in the first match.
As South Africa beckons for a test match in Harare and an ODI series in Bulawayo starting next month, could Sibanda fall victim to Mangongo’s wrath?
Mark Vermeulen responded to a Zim A recall by scoring a century in the first unofficial Test, adding pressure on Sibanda. If he gets runs again in the second match he could be on his way back into the national team.
Mangongo and convener of selectors Givemore Makoni have been accused of bias towards players groomed at Takashinga, but the experienced coach said he will be judged by the results the national team produces.
“We are on the same page with the selectors and we are also on the same page with the Zim A coach, so we want to widen the pool of talent to choose from. But the guys that have been playing regularly will be given a fair chance. What we want is to produce a winning team not a team that continues to disappoint its fans.
Even when we play giants like South Africa and Australia, it should not be a foregone conclusion; they should know that when they come here they will play some tough cricket.”
Zimbabwe will have a busy schedule until the World Cup next year with Australia set to join the hosts and South Africa for a triangular series in Harare before the team tours Bangladesh. There they will play three Tests and five ODIs, giving the team a rare opportunity for consistent cricket.
“This is a good opportunity for us to play good cricket consistently and the players are all excited about it. When we win against Bangladesh no one cares but when we beat Pakistan the world took notice. So when we play Australia and South Africa it’s a rare opportunity for us to show the World that we can play cricket and prove our doubters wrong.”