Well, I had coached Zimbabwe previously when I got back from England in 2000, against New Zealand. We actually won that series and after that, I got involved in farming. Then I was assisting Geoff Marsh at the 2003 World Cup and then again went back to farming before returning as coach of the National Academy last year. And then I got this job half way through that job. So, yeah, it is a nice challenge for me, it has come at a tough time for Zimbabwean cricket.
I got back to Zimbabwe in 2000 having played county cricket for 15 years. It was an issue with my kids especially about their schooling. I looked at the schooling system which is pretty sound from both the educational point of view and the sporting side. Then, with my knowledge of the game and my interest in cricket, I thought that putting something back into the game would be something I wanted to do. They have asked me to do that and I am enjoying it.
We have always had a strong school structure, which is well organised. And right from the under-13 level there is a lot of talent, and there are a lot of people very keen to play the game. Since we attained Test status, the game has been televised and that has helped a lot - it is the single-most factor that has helped expand the game around the country. What we need to do is educate the coaches at the junior level because a lot of A-side players are coming through with genuine talent but you can see they have been wrongly coached. It's very difficult to change people's actions and techniques when they reach the age of 18 to 20. That is one thing we need to address - to have more qualified coaches at the lower level because it is important that they get the basics right.
That is the idea behind the development programme where the priority is to get the right coaches coaching in the right manner and there are measures being taken to see to that we are not losing the talent.
The boards make decisions and it had nothing to do with me what happened to Phil. I was offered the job and as for any coach, to take charge of a national side is an honour and I took on the job.
I am not sure about the correct wording of the letter and what happened, but at the end of the day I have had full support from all these players. I have coached all these players as I have been around for the last four or five years and I have seen all of them come through the ranks. I am not aware what happened to Phil, but as I said I have taken on the job and it is a challenge for me.
No, not all. What one needs to remember is that everyone wants to see the game develop globally. You talk about the problems with the Zimbabweans and the Bangladeshis, sure there are problems. But taking Test status away from the weaker Test-playing countries is a negative step, because if anything they should play more Test cricket to actually develop. What I have tried to make sure is that we structure our first-class system a lot better. We have got our domestic league but that is not so strong as it should be. But at the moment, Zimbabwe sides are playing in India and in South Africa. Now, this could really make a huge difference, and we need to do more of that to make us a lot stronger in the Test arena.
Well, how long did it take a country like New Zealand to win a Test match? Something like 21 years. Zimbabwe did that pretty quickly: we got Test status in 1992 and we won our first Test in 1996. Sure, we have lost those senior players who played a part in that success, but we are in the rebuilding phase at the moment. And for these youngsters to develop, they need to play more international cricket, otherwise the game is dead and buried, it will never recover. So, I am not in favour of that at all.
They certainly would agree to that because it is a decision that is going to help cricket globally. It would make us a more competitive side, and then the spectators would come back to the game. I have mentioned this idea to the ZCU in my talks with them which would be good for the development of our game. It is an idea that can be explored in the coming few months. I have thought about it long and hard, and if a few meetings can be put in place with the ICC and the ZCU, something can surely be worked out.
We have a selection panel with which I have worked really well. They have obviously asked for my ideas, and most of the time they run with my ideas. So the selections process has never been an issue.
Yes, that is true. There are around 60,000 that play cricket in Zimbabwe. Cricket was generally a white man's sport and now it is growing fast amongst blacks. The other thing is the culture - my forefathers knew the cricketing culture whereas lot of these young guys' families don't know anything about cricket. So that does help, and that is coming through with the schooling system, education system and the development progamme, and that is getting a lot better.
Nagraj Gollapudi is sub-editor of Wisden Asia Cricket