Zimbabwe v India, 1st T20I, Harare July 16, 2015

Masakadza looks ahead to 'fresh start'

Hamilton Masakadza - "We expected something a little bit better than what we got. But we're looking forward to the new format now, a little bit of a fresh start and a new series" © Associated Press

Hamilton Masakadza is looking forward to a fresh start for Zimbabwe as they move into the Twenty20 phase of their series against India. Zimbabwe were whitewashed 3-0 by India in the one-dayers, but their recent T20 form against Pakistan suggests that the matches on Friday and Sunday could be more keenly contested.

"Obviously things didn't go according to plan in the one-dayers," Masakadza said. "We expected something a little bit better than what we got. But we're looking forward to the new format now, a little bit of a fresh start and a new series."

Lore suggests that T20 cricket tends to bring teams from different ends of the table closer together, but Zimbabwe have not played all that often in this format, and their domestic T20 tournament operates practically in a different universe to the multi-billion dollar IPL, from which the touring Indians have plenty of experience.

"We don't get as many games as they do, but you just have to work with what's put before you, and now looking forward to the T20 World Cup that's early next year we've got a little bit more T20 cricket coming up and we've just played some on the last tour that we had, so I think looking into the future we're going to have a few more games."

Masakadza has played in 218 international games for Zimbabwe, but his team have only won 49 of those with many victories coming against Bangladesh and Kenya. Recently, though, it has seemed Zimbabwe are getting closer and closer to winning games, while still all too often being unable to get over the line.

Zimbabwe might have well won both of their T20s against Pakistan in May, and the first match of India's tour went down to the last ball. With more experience of such positions, Masakadza believes Zimbabwe will be able to make the leap. "I think the main thing is to keep being competitive and get ourselves into those winning positions," he said.

"The more we get there the easier it will be to learn how to get over the line. Hopefully the gap (between the two teams) won't be too big like it was in the last two ODIs, and if we keep getting into good positions we'll work out how to finish it off."

"It's not so much what we haven't done, it's what Bangladesh have done. Now it seems like they're actually the favourites every time they play against someone at their home ground" © Associated Press

Zimbabwe's efforts might be viewed in contrast to those of Bangladesh, who have just won their fourth home ODI series in a row, with a 2-1 victory over South Africa. Just a few years ago, Zimbabwe would have started as favourites against Bangladesh, but the Zimbabweans could not win a game during their most recent series in Bangladesh. What is it that Zimbabwe are not getting right?

"It's not so much what we haven't done, it's what Bangladesh has done," Masakadza said. "They've just gone to a completely different level now, because looking two or three years back you wouldn't have given them a chance against people like South Africa, but now it seems like they're actually the favourites every time they play against someone at their home ground.

"They've really come on a lot quicker than anyone ever expected them to, and I think speaking on us, on our team, we can only take it from series to series. We've always had a few different issues to deal with, like losing players and things like that, but we just have to make sure that we make do with what we have, and keep going forward from there."

Zimbabwe's next challenge will be the two T20s against India, but they've also got an eye on these matches - and those in months to come in the format - as the start of their preparation for the World T20 in March next year. "You can't get that out of your mind too much, but you do concentrate on each game as you go. But you also know that it's already the start of a long preparation towards that."

Zimbabwe have been a little bit surprised by how the pitches used against India have played, and Masakadza said that the key to his side's batting in the T20s would be to make sure that good starts are converted into long innings.

"The thing has been, on these wickets, working hard to get yourself in. We found that it's been really difficult to get a start, but once you do get a start it's been a little bit different and guys have managed to kick on. That's the main thing for all the batters, just work hard in those first few balls to get in and then take it from there."

Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town

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