After making the Twenty20 World Cup Super 12 for the first time, Zimbabwe is determined to cause “as much damage” as possible, led by a coach who knows what success tastes like.
Zimbabwe is in Group 2 alongside the Netherlands, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and South Africa, and will face the Proteas in Hobart on Monday.
On Friday evening, the African nation defeated Scotland by six wickets to continue their resurgence under Dave Houghton, Zimbabwe’s first Test captain back in 1992.
The main goal when I took over for the qualifiers in Bulawayo was to get here. We got ahead and won five of those games, which were just as stressful as any other game because each game was like a cup final “Late Friday, he stated.
“So we had some experience playing a game with as many variables as this one (against Scotland).
“When we left, I told the guys, ‘It’s nice we qualified to come here, but that’s not our main goal.’ Our main goal is to get through and then cause as much damage as possible in the next trials.”
Since taking over, Houghton’s message to the team has been “you have the freedom to play,” a mantra that will not change against South Africa.
“There will be no consequences if you make mistakes,” he said. “I don’t believe you can grow as a cricketer if you’re afraid of your own shadow and afraid of playing a bad shot or bowling a bad ball or something.”
Changing the group’s attitude has also been critical to their success.
“Honestly, when they appointed me as coach, the first thing we did was put them on the bus and went to a game park, and we had a nice sunset looking at the game and having a few beers, and we sat down and talked a little bit,” he said.
“I think there was an immediate change in attitude once they realised I wasn’t going to be the person standing there pointing fingers and shouting at them all day.”
Their success is already being felt at home, with a “huge impact” in recent months.
According to Houghton, the fan base is “growing nicely,” and the professional first-class cricket system is “going very well at the moment.”
“There is therefore room for us to become a much better and stronger side over time,” he added.
“Where we are now, I think you’ll find us sustaining our cricket abilities for a lot longer once we start climbing the ladder a little bit and playing against the big sides more regularly.”