BY DANIEL NHAKANISO ZIMBABWE Cricket legend Dave Houghton will encourage his national team players to be themselves and play with more freedom as he seeks a perfect start to his second reign as head coach during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier B 2022 which gets underway in Bulawayo tomorrow.
Houghton recently inherited a squad, which has been terribly short of confidence and self-belief after a string of poor results under the mentorship of his predecessor Lalchand Rajput.
The 65 year-old Houghton was in charge of Zimbabwe during their memorable run to the Super Six stage of the 1999 World Cup in England before a successful coaching career on the English county cricket scene.
And as he begins his new tenure tomorrow he has promised a new positive approach from his players after a period of stagnation, which was highlighted by recent back-to-back home series defeats against Namibia and Afghanistan.
“The language they are using now is about positivity, it’s about freedom of expression and . . . we are having the guys hit the ball properly using all their skills.
“The guys are ready. From what I see, the guys have really responded pretty well,” Houghton said.
“Their skills have been wrapped up for a couple of years and hopefully we are going to release them now and we should see a nice, positive, exciting brand of cricket starting on Monday.”
Houghton says he has set himself the target of winning the qualifying competition and helping the country’s national cricket side register their first World Cup appearance in any format since 2016.
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“In terms of where we are looking to be as a team, we are talking nothing short of winning the tournament – as simple as that. Qualifying will be an extra bonus, but we are actually looking to win the tournament,” he added.
Zimbabwe will play Singapore in the opening match of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier B 2022 at Queens Sports Club on July 11 followed by other Group A matches against Jersey and USA.
Group B features the Netherlands, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Hong Kong and Uganda.
The teams that make it into the final will clinch the two remaining spots at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 to be hosted by Australia from October 16 to November 13.
Ahead of his first assignment as the new head coach, Houghton has decided against making wholesale changes with no major changes in the final squad named yesterday.
Veteran left handed batsman Craig Ervine leads a side with marked international experience in the form of fellow veterans Sikandar Raza, Sean Williams, Regis Chakabva and Tendai Chatara while the youthful trio of Milton Shumba, Tadiwanashe Marumani and Wessley Madhevere will provide a glimpse into the future.
The return of seamer Richard Ngarava and Wellington Masakadza from injuries is also expected to lift the burden on Blessing Muzarabani while opener Innocent Kaia has retained his place in the squad after impressing against Afghanistan.
Ryan Burl, Regis Chakabva, Tendai Chatara, Craig Ervine (captain), Luke Jongwe, Innocent Kaia, Wessly Madhevere, Tadiwanashe Marumani, Wellington Masakadza, Blessing Muzarabani, Richard Ngarava, Sikandar Raza, Milton Shumba, Sean Williams