Obviously we're delighted to take that T20 series, and in the way we won it, which showed great spirit. What was key for me was that we attacked from bad positions in both the second and third matches, something we wouldn't have done in the past. We've also used a number of different players through the series and that's part of my effort to broaden our base. So that is hugely encouraging.
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I knew the guys pretty well. I was involved last year with local franchise cricket coaching, so I knew the players and what I'd seen last year is that there's some very, very talented and highly skilled players. But when they play for Zimbabwe, they don't seem to want to get their skills out.
"I think that the team had become accustomed to losing. And unfortunately, as much as winning is a habit, so is losing, and it can be quite hard and frustrating as a coach to try and get that to change"
I think he's a slightly bigger name doing it with a slightly bigger team. It's nice to have that comparison, but I think I have a way to go first. Let's see how we go in six months' time, when we've got through Bangladesh, India and Australia, which are some tough, tough teams, and then the World Cup, and then we'll see if changes are made and progress has been made.
It [would be] wrong of me to criticise any previous coach. But I think that the team had become accustomed to losing. And unfortunately, as much as winning is a habit, so is losing, and it can be quite hard and frustrating as a coach to try and get that to change. The board realised that as well, and made the change for Lal and myself to try and get a new voice into the change room to see if we can get an about-turn to that losing habit. But as I said, it's been purely mental. There's no time between now and when we get back from Australia to actually do any technical work.
I think in every side you need a semblance of seniority as well as your young up-and-coming players. We have a nice blend. Sean was injured for a long time and that was a shame. But it's great to have him back. He really is a big player in our team. And so is Sikandar, and both of them are very senior, very experienced. Their cricket may have dropped in the last few months prior to me arriving, but since I've come back in, they've been mainstays of our side and have played brilliant cricket. Once these games are out of the way, I'll go and look at the franchise systems and see what [talent] is coming up in four or five years' time that's going to replace our senior players.
We've got five franchises right now and they've got about 20 people on the staff in each franchise. The standard is very much at the same level. You could probably take ten of the squad of 15 I've got now and change them with another ten and have no difference.
That's nothing new. We've been losing those guys since 1980. When we first became independent, we lost Brian Davis, who went off to Tasmania and then in the nineties we lost Graeme Hick and Kevin Curran. It's been going on for ages and you can't stop people going off and playing elsewhere. But I think there's more than enough guys to give us a serious, decent side over a number of years.
I don't think that we've ever said anybody who goes and plays elsewhere can't play for Zimbabwe. The biggest thing is letting them know they can come back. So you drop them a line and say, this is an option for you. But they must want to come back to play for Zimbabwe. This is not a case of us going out there and throwing contracts at people who haven't broken the world where they are anyway. They can get involved in the franchise system and if selected, play for Zimbabwe. There's nothing action-wise with specific players going on at the moment, but I have told the guys the door is open.
"In the past, the team was playing with Andy Flower, Heath Streak, Grant Flower, who could win you matches on their own. At the moment we don't have those match-winners, but we have a very big number of good players all across the same level"
I would agree with you but for the fact that when I played Test cricket, we had a player pool of about 15 people, and we managed to hold our own against India and a few others. What I see now, with five franchises playing good professional cricket all year round, is that it's quite substantially better than it used to be. There's always room for more, and I'm sure that's part of Zimbabwe Cricket's logistical plans going forward - to get more schools playing, resurrect some of the old school grounds which are still there but need to be redone. And get more facilities, because there's such an interest in the game it's amazing.
I don't really know a lot about the Zimbabwe budget. I know that we were in debt certainly five years ago. The new chairman Doc Mukuhlani [Tavenga Mukuhlani] came in and, with the help of the ICC, put in a lot of austerity measures over the last five years, trimmed the number of people working in the company [ZC] but still managed to maintain a fairly high level of domestic first class cricket.
I can't really comment about six or seven years ago, but I'll tell you that when I look back over my 40-year career with Zimbabwe, probably 18 to 20 years as a player, this is probably the best I've ever been treated. And [I'm working] with some of the nicest people I've ever worked with. If there was some toxicity some years ago and rumours creeped out about that, it certainly hasn't affected me. The people that I work with now are open all the time to suggestions on how we can improve. They're absolutely fantastic.
I've said all along I want to make the World Cup proper. It didn't worry me which section we were in. I genuinely feel that as well as we can [currently] play, we'll certainly be a handful for those three sides in our section. A couple of guys sort of mentioned it to me before the final: "Do you really want to win this game? Don't you want to be in the other section?" And I said, "Who knocked us out the last time we were in one of these qualifiers? Wasn't it UAE?" And that got the point across.
It's tricky, because although that was the best we've ever performed, there is a little bit of history to that tour for us. And in a way we got to where we got to not by luck but without even really trying. There had been a dispute over payments before we left and when we left Zimbabwean shores we had not practised for a month.
"It didn't worry me which section we were in in the T20 World Cup. I genuinely feel as well as we currently play, we'll certainly be a handful for the three sides in our section"
Setting long-term goals is not in my domain at the moment. If you want a goal now, it's to fill the stadiums. That's the goal. In Bulawayo, we had somewhere between 10,000 and 11,000 [people] for that final [Qualifier], which isn't far off full. And they sing and dance and scream and cheer for us and it's a fantastic atmosphere. And if we can continue to fill the stadiums by the brand of cricket that we play, cricket will grow exactly how we want it to.
I think the excitement around the Indian tour, even though it's only three ODIs, is immense. In town, when you talk to people, that's all they talk about. It reminds me of my youth when we went to play in the World Cup and we played against Dennis Lillee and [Jeff] Thomson, who most of our guys had only ever seen on TV before. It's now got to that stage with the Indian players because they are so well known worldwide for their exploits in the IPL and playing for India. So it's a matter of saying to these guys that yes, you're playing against this team and yes, you must respect them, but don't be in such awe of them that you can't go out and play. It's a formidable unit and we've got our work cut out, but it'll be fun.
I was doing some work for Zimbabwe anyway. I have always wanted to put back into Zimbabwe Cricket. I want to get it back to as close as it was when I was playing - No. 8 or 9 in the world rather than the 12-15 we've slipped to. I wanted to get us back and do everything I can to help out. So when the offer came to take over the national side, I couldn't say no, although I wasn't really looking to do a head coach's role because it can get quite pressurised at times. I just said, "Yes, I'll get on a plane." I jumped on a plane three days later and I was here.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000