Zimbabwe news October 27, 2009

Zimbabwe cricket on the right track - Chingoka

Peter Chingoka, Zimbabwe Cricket's chairman, has said that while Zimbabwe are some way off their return to Test cricket, there were positive developments in the country, thanks mainly to the new franchise system in domestic cricket and the return of former players such as Alistair Campbell, Dave Houghton and Andy Waller to the official fold.

Campbell is now the chairman of selectors, Houghton technical consultant, and Waller is also part of the coaching structure. "But of course it helps to have them back," Chingoka said. "Over the last four-five years we have been lacking in experience, no senior players to turn to or get advice from. Sachin Tendulkar can go to Sunil Gavaskar or Vishy and get instant advice. We had nobody to talk the game to. Now we have them as coaches, selectors."

Chingoka is in Nagpur, the home town of BCCI president Shashank Manohar, as the guest of the Indian board. He was pleased with the return of several current players - such as Ray Price, Terry Duffin and Charles Coventry - but also spoke of the difficulty in keeping young talent from choosing to play in other countries.

"Some of it becomes an economic question, as to what opportunities are there elsewhere," Chingoka said. "You have to keep trying, but we have a specific balance to keep. If you remember cricket was a very elitist sport in Zimbabwe, only few people played. We are trying to make it a national sport so that everybody plays, but it costs money. So you have got to balance, do you go for the top of the tree or for the roots? You have to strike a median somewhere."

The new franchise system, Chingoka said, is much more competitive now. "We now have five teams in place of 10. That improves the quality of the competition, where strong players play strong players. It's the same concept as IPL but because it is too young we have to fund it ourselves but the franchisees are run independently."

Zimbabwe have two ODIs against South Africa to look forward to, on November 8 and 10, and also support from their neighbours in their quest to return to Tests. "They have taken a commitment to help us back to Test level. Those particular days they will be sitting down with us to agree on areas they can help us with, from age-group teams to national team to academies to women's cricket to umpiring to groundsmen."

Over the past few months, Coventry's record-equalling 194 not out against Bangladesh and Hamilton Masakadza's 178 not out against Kenya have been Zimbabwe cricket's highlight. Chingoka sees a lot of scope for improvement. "I am not satisfied, but we are improving," he said. "Again the question of youth comes into play. We should have won 5-0 against Kenya, but we won 4-1. We were chasing a target of 267 [in the third ODI], and were 204 for 3 with about 10 overs to go. We should have been able to walk through [but finished 21 runs short]."

Signs of improvement were on display on Tuesday when Zimbabwe went on to upset Bangladesh in Bangladesh, successfully chasing 187 with more than 15 overs to spare.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo