Reaping the rewards of a positive approach
Since taking over from Kevin Curran as Zimbabwe coach, Robin Brown has been singing the one tune: the need to reverse an inherited negative approach towards the game by his players which was a hallmark of the Curran regime. "The days of playing to compete are over," he is reported to have told local reporters at a press meeting on the eve of the first ODI.
Curran sent his players out to do no more than bat out the overs, with the result that rarely did they ever give themselves a chance to win matches. It was safety first and that negativity spread to the players. "My contract doesn't say that I have to win matches, it says as long as I am competitive, then my employers are happy," he boasted. In the end, even swatches of non cricketers within the ZC board realised that was not a viable approach.
Brown oozes self-assurance in the midst of adversity. His confidence lies in his own ability as a cricket instructor of note, and his power to uplift and overhaul the whole attitude of a bunch of young players, who he has bluntly told to pull up their socks.
The results have been apparent from as early as his first assignment when Zimbabwe stunned Australia at the ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa. For once the Zimbabwe Cricket board deserves a pat on the back for a cricket decision which seems to be bearing early fruits.
The players too are buying into Brown's regime. Commenting on his outstanding all-round performance which earned him the Man-of-the-Match award, Chamu Chibhabha paid tribute to the coach, saying that he "allows us to play our natural game." That could never have been said under Curran.
Zimbabwe captain Prosper Utseya, who seems to be growing in confidence under Brown, admitted that his side can no longer use inexperience as an excuse for poor cricket and self-inflicted defeats.
It is certainly an approach which can be taken forward. But will it be? Only time will tell and much will be clearer by the end of the week. Zimbabwe have the remaining four matches to prove that their first ODI win was no fluke, and that they can genuinely claim to be a bona fide member of the international cricket family.
They need to take forward the positives from the first match, like the resurgence of Chibhabha and Elton Chigumbura as versatile players with the ability to deliver in all departments. This development has meant sure that the seam bowlers on the sidelines are kept on their toes as the team begin to rely more and more on players with all-round abilities.
Zimbabwe cricket has a tendency of burning down its own house in order to build again. One hopes that they have learned and will leave cricket to cricket people and allow Brown to get on with the job in hand.
Steven Price is a freelance journalist based in Harare