Rajput drills in winning mentality

Eddie Chikamhi
Senior Sports Reporter
THE Zimbabwe national men’s cricket team coach Lalchand Rajput believes he has drilled his charges well ahead of the three-match One Day International series against Afghanistan that gets underway at Harare Sports Club this Saturday.

The Chevrons, who are also scheduled to play three T20I matches against the tourists later this month, have stepped up their preparations for the series.

Over the years they have experienced ups and downs but of immediate importance is that they need to erase the sad memories of the humiliating defeat they suffered at the hands of Namibia in a T20I series held in Bulawayo recently.

Rajput told The Herald yesterday that they have been working on the mentality of the players so that they adopt a positive mindset going into the series.

“It’s always difficult when you lose a series to Namibia but that is now in the history. We have to be in the present because we are now looking forward to another series that is coming up.

“Let’s be very positive in all aspects. Let’s be positive in our mental aspects, think in the positive way and go into the series with a positive mindset.

“If you think positive you will perform better because there is a saying which goes: think positive, act positive and play positive,” said Rajput.

He said the winning mentality will be key in Zimbabwe’s Super League pursuits and the upcoming ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier, which they will host next month.

But Afghanistan have, of late, become a bogey team for Zimbabwe across formats. The visitors have better head to head records in the white ball competitions.

The teams have met 25 times in ODIs with Zimbabwe winning 10 and losing 15. The Afghanis have also dominated the T20I competitions where they boast of 11 wins against a single loss to Zimbabwe in 12 meetings.

The next two weeks will be crucial for Zimbabwe. Afghanistan have a strong team with five players who were part of the recent Indian Premier League. Blessing Muzarabani was the only Zimbabwean although he could not play a part in the games.

The Afghan players nowadays are quite in demand in T20 Leagues. Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Rashid Khan, Noor Ahmad were part of the IPL title-winning Gujrat Titans while Mohammad Nabi and Fazalhaq Farooqi’s names also featured in the tournament.

Rajput could not hide the enormity of the challenge ahead, although he tips his charges to rise to the occasion.

“The spirit is very high in the Zimbabwe camp because Afghanistan is a very good team. So we are all up. We had a very good preparation time. We have been practicing hard. We had a two centre wicket practice yesterday and the day before.

“So the boys are really keen and eager to play them. It will give us a good impetus because some of their guys have played in the IPL. So that really helps our players; they want to play against those players and play better in the park,” said Rajput.

“If you look at them, they had about five players playing in the IPL and that makes a lot of difference because the experience they get in the IPL is tremendous.

“Yes, we are not far behind but we haven’t got game time. We played against South Africa ‘A’ , so some players got game time and then Namibia. Of course we could not win the series but the mood is quite high.”

The ODI matches are part of the ICC Cricket World Cup Super League, whereas the T20Is, which will run between 11 and 14, will count towards the ICC T20I Rankings.

The Afghanistan team are already in Zimbabwe and have set up a week-long preparation camp. Afghanistan are currently placed at fifth position in the Super League table with 70 points from nine games.

Zimbabwe are struggling second from the bottom of the 13-team table after playing 12 games and raking up 35 points, from three wins.

Each team earns 10 points for a win, five for a tie/ no result/ abandoned match, and zero for a loss.

The top eight teams will get a direct entry to the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023. The remaining teams will have to play in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier along with five associate teams.

Two teams from the qualifying tournament will then progress to the World Cup. India automatically qualified on the account of being the tournament hosts.

The T20Is will also serve as part of Zimbabwe’s final preparations for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier B 2022, which is one of two global tournaments that form the final stage of the qualification process for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 to be staged in Australia.

Zimbabwe will host the eight-team qualifying tournament in July.

“Every series is very crucial, let’s be honest, because now we are now approaching so every series is crucial. We have got to try and get the winning momentum. So this series will be crucial and I am sure we are getting there.

“When you play a better team there are always these rivalries. We played them recently in a Test match in Abu Dhabi, so they will be coming hard at us as well,” said Rajput.

But Zimbabwe would quickly need to forget about the home disappointment they suffered in their last outing against Namibia.

Asked what went wrong in that series, Rajput said: “We can pinpoint a lot of things because we never had our full team, although we can’t blame that.

“In the first match (Tadiwanashe) Marumani got Covid-19, then after two games Ryan Burl tested positive and then after the fourth game Craig Ervine tested positive.

“Then Milton Shumba got injured and could not play. There were a lot of factors but we just left it behind and move forward and hopefully we will be in a positive frame of mind to take our game forward,” said Rajput.

He also said the Zimbabwe team needed to have more depth.

“That’s the reason I always believe we have got to have youngsters coming in. That has to be done at regular intervals. We have a lot of youngsters coming now and they are basically doing well.

“Look at Milton (Shumba) he is doing well, Wesley (Madhevere) is doing well, Innocent Kaia, (Takudzwanashe) Kaitano and in the bowling we have (Blessing) Muzarabani.

“There are a lot of guys coming in and it gives us a lot of balance between the seniors and the juniors. I am sure the juniors will definitely be groomed with the seniors around them and the seniors taking their responsibility so that the juniors get to learn from them,” said Rajput.

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