ZIMBABWE senior men’s cricket coach Dave Houghton has called on the local cricket fans to rally behind the team in the aftermath of the Namibia debacle when the Chevrons host Ireland in limited overs series starting with the first T20I at Harare Sports Club this evening.
The former Zimbabwe captain said the vociferous fans have traditionally spurred on the Chevrons to perform well and the six-match series against Ireland comprising three T20Is and three One Day Internationals is no different.
Zimbabwe failed to qualify for next year’s T20 World Cup to be co-hosted by West Indies and the USA following defeats against hosts, Namibia and East African side, Uganda.
“It's massive (to have the fans in their droves) and obviously we play well with our fans. Our fans are very much our 12th man. I would say to them, look, what has happened before has gone, there’s nothing we can do about it. We can’t get it back, it has happened but here we are in front of our home fans against a very good side,” Houghton told NewsDay Sport.
“I think it will be quite a special six games we play with them, and it will be great to have the fans here to watch. It’s not like we are certainly going to go and drop off the cliff and be a useless team again. I’m sure everyone knows what we have done in the last 18 months. We had a little bit of a blip in our performances, but we are back at home and hope we are going to play the sort of cricket that has entertained everybody for the last 12 to 14 months.”
Houghton backed the senior players who constitutes the nucleus of the squad against Ireland to deliver in this series.
“I think they are all hungry for it for a number of reasons; one we want to get our cricket back the way it is because we have been playing some great cricket and it’s great fun to be involved in it and then when you go through a little bit of a slump, you know it’s not so much fun, it’s hard work all the time,” he said.
“We want to get back to the fun side of things, so our senior players are very motivated, not just for the country but also for themselves in a way because they’re a lot of opportunities for players around the world. In the last year or so several of our players had a taste of it, and they want more. (Sean) Williams, Richie (Richard Ngarava), obviously (Sikandar) Raza goes to a lot of these tournaments, (Ryan) Burl — they have all been given opportunities to play in these franchise events and there are several others who want to get there as well.”
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The national selectors made four changes into the T20I squad to face Ireland, dropping pace bowler, Tendai Chatara, spinner, Wellington Masakadza and opening batsmen, Innocent Kaia, and Nick Welch. In-came, returning spinner, Brandon Mavuta and batsman, Tony Munyonga as well as uncapped duo of pace bowler Trevor Gwandu and batsman Brian Bennett.
“The guys that we would have left out, I always make a point of trying to speak to them and I have always been told a little bit of good advice by the previous head coach when I took over at Worcester. He said whenever you leave players out, you must show them the way back. So, I have had that conversation with guys who have been left out of this tour; you need to go back, you need to score runs, you need to get yourself fully, one percent fit, you need to put on pressure to get back into this team and we keep that rolling, cycle of players happening then it sustains this team,” added Houghton.
“It's important for our side. In the 16 or so months I have been here, we played with pretty much the same team the whole time. While we have had some outstanding results and we brought some great excitement to the country, we also had some low points. The thing for me is that if you want to sustain the cricket with your national team, you must have a pool of players that are putting pressure all the time from behind. I’m very pleased that we have been able to bring in a couple of new faces and a couple of players who have been in the team before but have got back through merit, just that little bit of newness around the change room is quite refreshing for us but we need more of them. We need more players all the time putting pressure on the guys above them and that way you sustain your national side.”