Zimbabwe v Pakistan, 1st T20, Harare September 26, 2015

Chigumbura sees value in game park bonding

Douglas Hondo, the Zimbabwe bowling coach, believes Prosper Utseya still has a key part to play © AFP

Zimbabwe's preparations for the series against Pakistan concluded with some often overlooked groundwork: the building of team unity and camaraderie within a fractured side. The squad spent a week at a game park near the town of Gweru, south of Harare, bonding, breaking down barriers and getting to know each other.

"It was a good getaway when we went to Gweru," Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura said. "I thought we managed to iron out things that were hanging a bit in our team. It's a process, and we're going to try and implement what we got from Gweru, from the psychologist, and hopefully we can build from there. Usually we only meet during training or matches and during the time we spent together away in Gweru we got to understand each other on a deeper level."

The exercise appears to have worked, and there was a noticeably jovial and relaxed atmosphere to Zimbabwe's training on Friday. The smiling faces in the pictures the players have posted on their social media feeds adds to that impression, and a happy side is also one that will be better placed to turn dominant positions into victories.

"The way we've trained so far, I think everyone is going in the right direction," Chigumbura said. "It's going to be important to be tested through tough times as a team, and it will be good practice to play against Pakistan. It's something that we're still working on. Hopefully we'll get over the line in this series if we have a chance of winning the game."

Another part of their game that Zimbabwe will be looking to improve upon in their matches against Pakistan is bowling at the death. Bowling coach Douglas Hondo believes that taking wickets in the middle overs would help to ease the pressure on the bowlers.

"We've been working on our fitness, and also finding the combinations to take wickets in the middle overs, which makes things easier for us at the death," Hondo said. "We have been working on that. We've got bowlers for all conditions: we've got swingers, seamers, spinners and of course Prosper."

Hondo defended Prosper Utseya's inclusion after the bowler had to completely remodel his bowling style, having been found to have an illegal action, and nowadays purveys a combination of slow-medium leg-cutters and seamers instead of his offspin. He was wicketless in the two ODIs and one T20 he played against New Zealand in August having collected just a single wicket against India in July.

"We still see his purpose in the shorter game, particularly the T20s," he said. "He still has that role of holding up one end and keeping it tight with his little leg cutters. He still has the accuracy that he had with his offspin. And he has all-round ability with the bat. So he still holds value, as well as the experience of his 164 one-day games."

Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town

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