Zimbabwean coach Kevin Curran on the First Test
John Ward spoke to Zimbabwean coach Kevin Curran after the final day of the First Test between Zimbabwe and New Zealand at Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo.
JW: Starting with today's play, Kev, can you outline Zimbabwe's game plan as they came out to bat this morning at 100 for five wickets?
KC: In our second innings yesterday we lost a few wickets so that put us under a bit of pressure this morning. The idea was to bat for the minimum of a session, to try to get to lunch without losing any more wickets, and hopefully go from there, putting the pressure back on to New Zealand. This has been a slow-scoring match, and if we had gone at the rate which is about two runs an over we would have got in the region of 60 to 70 runs in the first session, which would have given us a lead of about 180, and then we could have assessed it after lunch. But unfortunately Chris Cairns came in and changed the match in the space of 40 minutes ^ we lost five wickets in 40 minutes. We couldn't recover from that situation. So he bowled a match-winning spell in those 40 minutes.
JW: Perhaps some of our batsmen could have handled the situation better than they did.
KC: Well, it's the game. We went out there and tried to bat time, trying to get ourselves in, but Alistair Campbell got out really early, which didn't help. I was hoping he would hold out until lunch, by which time he would have had a good score. Heath was looking pretty good but he got one that had him caught down the leg side, and that's the game - you lose one, you lose two or three at the same time. They knocked us over very quickly, and all credit to them, to be honest. On a flat wicket, for Chris Cairns to get five wickets, he turned the match in their favour.
JW: There wasn't too much hope of getting New Zealand out for less than 132 on this pitch, but there's always a chance, so what was the game plan then?
KC: It was a difficult total to chase; anything from 130 to 160 is difficult, but obviously the odds are in the opposition's favour. We had to get wickets early; maybe if we could knock over three or four before lunch it would have put us in a good position, but that didn't happen. But on the whole I think we competed for three or four days and just lost it in that last session.
JW: And it was quite a blow to have Grant Flower called for throwing.
KC: Yes, there's obviously going to be a bit of a debate on that. It was in the opinion of the umpire that he was throwing so a board will sit down and discuss the issue. My personal opinion is that I don't think he does throw, but that will be solved by the powers that be.
JW: Is there anybody else you are hoping to bring into the team for the Harare Test, such as Henry Olonga?
KC: We travel down to Harare tomorrow morning and we'll have a look at the wicket on Monday, and then we'll pick the side accordingly. You never are sure how the wicket is going to play, but we'll have a look at it and then take it from there, whether we think it's going to be a turning wicket or a seaming wicket ^ we'll pick the side accordingly.
JW: And overall, how have you found the job in your first Test as Zimbabwe team coach?
KC: Well, it's going to be a good challenge for me. Coming in as a new coach, you need to get to know the players, and I was told very late; I only got to know four or five days before the New Zealanders arrived, so it' s going to take time to get to know the players and their techniques. I'm not one to come in and just change things overnight; you've got to look at strengths, build on weaknesses, and so on. We've lost two key players [Goodwin and Johnson], which is a bit of a blow to the Zimbabwe squad, but there are young players there, and it's a question of bringing the young players through to the level of Test cricket. We're one of the youngest Test-playing countries in terms of age, so it's a matter of keeping those guys together and working hard.
JW: Is there any particular area you've identified as needing special concentration?
KC: Well, it's difficult for me to say, but I thought we batted very well in the first innings. We've got some class players there, and we've got some younger players coming in who haven't played a lot of Test cricket. Its good experience for them; they'll learn from it and there are a couple of areas we'll look at. Obviously we'll address a few areas where we went wrong in this game, but other than that I think there's a bright future for Zim cricket.
JW: Are there any other points you'd like to make?
KC: At this stage, no - it's not the best time to catch me (laughs) having lost a game, but we work hard on what we know how to do, I'll keep working with the guys, and we'll just go from strength to strength.