Zimbabwe will embark on their first Test assignment in over a year without key coaching personnel.
Batting coach Grant Flower, bowling coach Heath Streak and fitness trainer Lorraine Chivandire will not travel to the Caribbean later this month because of a technical structure change made by Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC).
“After consulting with the players and the head coach on the effectiveness of the current coaching structure which has a head coach, an assistant coach and two specialists a decision was made to streamline the structure to allow for better strategy formulation and communication in camp,” Shingai Rhuhwaya, general manager of media and public affairs told ESPNcricinfo.
“While specialist can be engaged for preparations and specialist training throughout the season, the head coach is to have full and sole charge of the national team during tours. The same will apply for the fitness trainer whose primary objective is to ensure that players are fit before they go to tour. The physiotherapist and assistant coach will then play the role of maintenance while on tour.”
ESPNcricinfo understands that financial concerns and accommodating more touring players are behind reasons for the decision.
The tour, which includes three ODIs, two Twenty20s and two Tests, starts on February 20 and is head coach Alan Butcher’s last in charge before his contract expires. The build-up to the tour has been punctuated with controversy after ZC were unhappy with a selection directive issued by the country’s Sports and Recreation Commission which required the entire panel to be former international players. The order has since expanded to include non-ex players as well.
Butcher is hopeful the sideshows will not hamper the team’s progress on the tour, although he admits they travel as underdogs.
“We haven’t played an ODI in more than a year either and that doesn’t help. We know it will be tough but we have to stay positive and give a better account of ourselves from a last trip.”
Zimbabwe’s last full tour was to New Zealand in early 2012. They lost all the matches across every format, including their heaviest Test defeat. It was a major comedown for them after they made a successful return to Test cricket in August 2011 by beating Bangladesh. They also enjoyed a promising run of form at home in series against Bangladesh, Pakistan and New Zealand.
Since then, Zimbabwe’s only success came in an unofficial T20 tri-series in June last year which they won after beating a South African XI in the final. It did not do them any good at the World T20, though. Zimbabwe lost both group matches by big margins and handed Ajantha Mendis his best figures of 6 for 8.
Lack of funds and tour cancellations have robbed them of any more cricket. Bangladesh postponed their August trip because of the BPL and Zimbabwe could not host them any earlier then Pakistan also did not tour as scheduled in November. The Bangladesh tour is due to happen this August but there has been no confirmation of that series yet.
By then, Zimbabwe will have a new head coach. Butcher has chosen not to renew his contract because “I have been away from my family for three years,” and denied that the administrative issues had anything to do with him not continuing. Interviews were held to choose his successor last week. Flower, current assistant coach Stephen Mangongo and former international batsman Andy Waller, who previously coached Namibia, have applied for the position. Streak has not put his name in the hat for the head job but has indicated he wants to continue as bowling coach.
Although Butcher did not see as much success as he hoped he would, he regards his time with Zimbabwe as fulfilling despite the obstacles. “I’ve enjoyed it and the players have been great to work with. I cannot fault what they’ve put in,” he said. “I am happy that in my time in charge, we won our comeback Test and the ODI series against Bangladesh and the unofficial T20 tournament. The coaching staff have all worked very hard and I’d say 90% of my time was superb.” He has one tour left to raise that percentage.