Cricket team to play India, Sri Lanka

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Fresh from their early exit at the World Twenty20 in the West Indies, local players have received a boost to their spirits with the home-coming of former England coach Duncan Fletcher.

Fletcher, 62, is Zimbabwean. He is also former captain of the Zimbabwean cricket team. He came to Zimbabwe this week and is conducting coaching sessions for players and coaches at the High Performance Centre (HPC) in Harare.

When NewsDay visited the HPC on Wednesday, Fletcher was busy giving tips to the national team which returned, tails between legs, from the Caribbean last week. The former England coach’s arrival coincided with a change of guard in the national cricket team.

All rounder Elton Chigumbura (25), has taken over the captaincy from Prosper Utseya who resigned on Monday after nearly four years at the helm.

Fletcher refused adamantly to speak to the press saying he had made a decision to get out of press limelight when he resigned from being the England coach four years ago.

“I don’t give interviews to the media, even in South Africa and that has been my policy since I retired from full time coaching,” said Fletcher.

Former Zimbabwe coach Kevin Curran said local cricketers had received a shot in the arm ahead of the triangular series with India and Sri Lanka with the coming of Fletcher.

“He played for Zimbabwe at a time when we were still aspiring to play Test cricket and now we are looking at regaining our status and he knows the amount of pressure the players will be under,” Curran said.

“The players have had the opportunity to work closely with him and his experience and knowledge of the game at a higher level will be very valuable for the players.

“All this could not have come at a better time for local players,” said Curran.

Fletcher coached the England national team for 8 years beginning in 1999. He was the first foreigner to coach the British team although he had never played Test cricket at international level. But Fletcher had played first class cricket in South Africa and England.

He defied the odds to transform the England side into one of the most competitive sides in World cricket, with the 2005 Ashes victory over Australia being the pinnacle of his illustrious career as England coach.

His visit to Zimbabwe comes at a time when Zimbabwean cricket is on a recovery path since the advent of franchise cricket which has seen some of the ‘rebel’ players who had deserted the national, team making themselves available for the national cause.

Zimbabwe are scheduled to host Sri Lanka and India in a triangular series in Bulawayo and Harare. They will also play two Twenty20 matches with India from May 28 to June 13 in a series in which they will be eager to impress to so that they will speed up their return to Test cricket.

India have already announced theteam which will tour Zimbabwe. Unheralded Suresh Raina will lead a second-string India squad for the ODI tri-series in Zimbabwe and the Twenty20s.