Will Rajput deliver scalps?


LAST week Lalchand Rajput was confirmed as substantive coach for the Zimbabwe senior men’s cricket team, the Chevrons, and cricket fans are eager to know what the gaffer is offering.
The Indian mentor will take charge of the national team with the tour of SA and Bangladesh being the immediate task ahead.
The 56-year-old former India international player has been in charge of the Chevrons on an interim basis since June, leading the side in a Twenty20 international triangular series with Australia and Pakistan in Harare before facing the latter in a five-match One Day International (ODI) series in Bulawayo.
However, Zimbabwe lost the T20 and ODI series.
Despite the whitewash, Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) believe the Indian can deliver.
Rajput replaced Heath Streak who had been appointed in October 2016 and tasked to see Zimbabwe qualify for the 2019 Cricket World Cup in England and Wales.
After Zimbabwe’s failure to qualify, ZC wielded the axe on Streak and his backing staff in March.
Graeme Cremer also lost his captaincy.
Tempers flared after the sacking of the former Zimbabwe national team skipper as several fans wanted Streak to continue with his streak.
Tatenda Taibu, the convener of selectors, was also fired.
ZC board chair Tawengwa Mukuhlani said they were thrilled to appoint Rajput as head coach of the national team.
“We are thrilled to appoint Lalchand as the substantive head coach of Zimbabwe’s senior men’s national cricket team,” Mukuhlani said.
“Lalchand has a wealth of experience and an outstanding track record of success throughout his career.
“He has identified, nurtured and developed some of the best young talent in world cricket; from coaching a young India side that won the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in 2007 through to recently moulding Afghanistan into a formidable team that eventually earned Test status.
“His hard-working and passionate approach and his sense of values on and off the pitch make him the ideal person to take us forward.”
Rajput has been credited for turning around fortunes of the gentleman’s game in India and Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, Rajput is credited for the country’s Test status they achieved through his mentorship.
He also coached Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League and was coaching director of the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s National Cricket Academy.
He was part of the India national team as an opening batsman.
Rajput said he banks on his vast experience as a driving force to turn around the fortunes of the game in Zimbabwe.
Boasting coaching experience, he said: “My vast coaching experience should come in handy.
I have worked with multiple players and teams during my career as a coach.
As a coach, your man management skills are very crucial.
It is important to make the players feel comfortable and work with them.
The team is like a family, each player has to complement each other and work towards winning each challenge.
My focus will be to keep the team united and take Zimbabwe to the next level (sic).”
With a noble action plan for the Chevrons and having a decorated CV, the 56-year-old gaffer might avert what his predecessors faced at ZC.
Zimbabwe has been a coaches minefield that has seen all reputable coaches failing to deliver and ending up sacked owing to poor results.
Streak was a successful coach but fell out of favour with the ZC board.
Phil Simmons came to Zimbabwe as a coach with vast experience and a reputation but left without any achievements.
Englishman Alan Butcher also faced the same music together with Makhaya Ntini.
Faced with a myriad of problems, ZC have been under fire for fueling the high coaches turnover. They have been failing to create a conducive atmosphere where the game flourishes.
The players’ contracts and payments remains a sticky issue at ZC with some players opting out of the Chevrons set-up.
The recent development of Blessing Muzarabani’s retirement from international cricket sparked outcry on the social media platforms.
Others put blame on Mukuhlani for failing the national team.
They alleged the board chair was responsible for players’ discontent that is seeing other players playing county cricket in England and other lucrative leagues.
The local cricket league, that acts as a feeder into the national team, is not very competitive.
The negativity of the league has a direct bearing on the Chevrons’ performance.
The coming tours to South Africa and Bangladesh for the Chevrons will help gauge the national team’s ability to come out of the cocoon.
The previous gains of the national team have been reversed following the changes in coaching.
Rajput now has to prove that previous national team coaches failed tactically, not the players.
All the fired coaches used the same players Rajput has today, with a few exceptions.
Rajput will need to justify ZC’s decision of appointing him at the expense of continuity on Streak’s contract.


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