A fired-up Zimbabwe plan to cause “as much damage” as possible in the Twenty20 World Cup Super 12 after making the grade for the first time, led by a coach who knows what success tastes like.
The African nation booked its berth at the expense of Scotland on Friday evening, winning by six wickets to continue their resurgence under Dave Houghton, Zimbabwe’s first Test captain back in 1992.
Houghton was appointed for his second stint as national coach in July, a week before the World Cup qualifying tournament in Bulawayo.
Zimbabwe swept through that challenge and Houghton, considered one of Zimbabwe’s best batsmen alongside Andy Flower, said he was “over the moon” that they carried the form to Australia
“When I took over for the qualifiers in Bulawayo, the biggest and main objective was to get here. We got ahead and won five of those games, and they were as pressurised as any game because each game was like a cup final,” he said late Friday.
“So we had some sort of experience of playing a game with as much on it as this one (against Scotland).
“I did say to the guys when we left home, ‘it’s nice we qualified to get here, but that’s not our main objective’. Our main objective is to get through and then cause as much damage in the next trials as we can.”
Zimbabwe are in Group 2 alongside fellow qualifiers the Netherlands, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and South Africa, facing a massive clash against the Proteas in Hobart on Monday.
Houghton said his message to the team since taking over was “you have the freedom to play”, a mantra that won’t change against South Africa.
“There will be no repercussions if you make mistakes, because I don’t believe you can grow as a cricketer if you’re in fear of your own shadow and in fear of playing a bad shot or bowling a bad ball or something,” he said.
Changing the attitude within the group has also been key to their turnaround.
“Honestly, the first thing we did when they appointed me as coach is I put them on the bus and went to a game park, and we had a nice sunset looking at the game and having a few beers, and we sat down and we talked a little bit,” he said.
“Once they realised that I’m not going to be a person who’s going to be standing there pointing fingers and shouting at them all day, I think immediately there was a change in attitude.”
Their success is already reverberating at home, having a “huge impact” over the past few months.
Houghton said the fan base was “coming up nicely” and the professional first-class cricket system was “going very well at the moment”.
“So there’s scope for us to become a much better and stronger side over the years,” he added.
“Where we are now, once we start climbing the ladder a little bit and playing against the big sides more regularly, I think you’ll find us sustaining our cricket abilities for a lot longer.”