Zimbabwe in Pakistan 2015 May 12, 2015

'I am batting better than I ever have' - Coventry

Be it breaking a world record or refusing an offer to play for his country, Charles Coventry has always been one for making a statement. So what has the batsman been up to since leaving Zimbabwe's structures in 2013?

"I can't go back to Zimbabwe permanently because I have a full-time job but I jumped at the chance to be involved somehow, especially with 20-over cricket" © AFP

Charles Coventry used to regard his bat the same way a writer does a keyboard. It was for making his statements.

The most common statement was the lofted drive, his signature stoke introduced in 2002, when he topped Zimbabwe's run charts at the Under-19 World Cup. The most powerful statement was a world record, blasted in August 2009, when he hit what was then the highest individual score in ODIs, 194 not out. The most defiant statement came five years later in 2014, when put the bat away and refused Zimbabwe Cricket's offer to rejoin the national squad ahead of the World T20.

Now Coventry has dusted the machine off and is ready to start typing again, in a different font.

"There were times in the past when I just used to go out and swing at everything but I feel that now my game is more controlled. I actually feel I am batting better than I ever have," Coventry told ESPNcricinfo.

The proof does not lie in his recall to the national team after a four-year absence, because Coventry does not have domestic statistics to back up his return. He has not played in Zimbabwe's structures since 2013. It lies in the more measured, mature outlook Coventry has on the game, which he learned through stints at club level.

He has been part of a Dubai's Wings SRT XI and Johannesburg's Wanderers. With them, Coventry has been part of teams that have won the league. The former was a job, where Coventry played as an overseas professional, the latter a hobby while he set himself up as a resident in South Africa.

Since January, Coventry has been coaching cricket at the King Edward VII Preparatory School, the junior school of King Edward High School, which produced players like Jimmy Cook, Neil McKenzie and Graeme Smith. Down the road, at St Johns, Stuart Matsikenyeri has a similar position. Matsikenyeri was recalled for the World Cup and Coventry made contact with Zimbabwe shortly after to discuss the possibility of a comeback to the highest level, albeit in limited capacity.

"I can't go back to Zimbabwe permanently because I have a full-time job but I jumped at the chance to be involved somehow, especially with 20-over cricket," Coventry explained. It's not very dissimilar to the many freelance T20 cricketers who play across various premier leagues, but are limited to one country. "My plan is to go up a few days beforehand when there is a series, train with the squad and play a few games. I also plan to play in the Zimbabwe domestic T20 competition."

The World T20 next year is in his sights, but only peripherally so. Instead, it's just the opportunity to play some international cricket and contribute to a Zimbabwean set-up that is making strides towards recovery following years of stagnation and strife.

Coventry doesn't mind even if he is "just there doing throwdowns in the nets" © AFP

"From guys I've spoken to, it sounds as though things are really moving in a positive direction. There's a good bunch of players and a good environment with Alistair Campbell back, trying to make things better for the players," Coventry said. "That's great for Zimbabwean cricket because it has a lot to offer. It would be good to be part of that."

Coventry, like Chris Mpofu and Vusi Sibanda, is being called on to be part of that because Zimbabwe are adding experience to their ranks in the absence of Brendan Taylor. Coventry, however, does not see himself in the same league as the former captain.

"A lot of the younger guys have played a lot more than me so I don't think of myself as a senior player but one of the things I hope I can bring is to be a good team man with good team ethics. If I don't play a game and I'm just there doing throwdowns in the nets, that's also fine."

If he does take the field, Coventry has promised he will not just be brandishing the bat like the way he used to with a microphone, but will use it as an instrument to play a slightly different tune. "I've been training really hard and been working on some technical things - there used to be talk about how I approached the short ball and that's something I've concentrated on," he said

"I am not going there to prove any point or to try and be the best player in the world or to chase statistics or anything like that. I don't want to make a big thing of me making a comeback. I just want to be the best that I can be. If it doesn't work out, that's fine."

Another statement, but this time, a quiet one.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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