Lalchand Rajput has taken the job of Zimbabwe Cricket coach. The former India cricketer has inked a short-term deal with Zimbabwe Cricket to replace their incumbent coach Heath Streak. The former Zimbabwe seamer was fired in March after the team had failed to qualify for the 2019 ICC World Cup.
Zimbabwe’s home T-20 series against Australia and Pakistan in July will be the first major challenge for Rajput, who has also coached Afghanistan. The coach sounds optimistic. “I am really happy with this, because this is what I was looking for after the job with Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan team did exceptionally well when I was the coach there, so the people in Zimbabwe must have seen something that impressed them. But yes, it’s a challenge. Challenges gets the best out of me. I think people know me for that,” says the coach who was approached by the Zimbabwe Cricket.
Rajput will like to live up to his reputation as a coach. But his potential and aspirations may be marred by the prevailing situation in the Zimbabwe Cricket. Are there quality players to train? This is one major question the Zimbabwe Cricket will have to answer before Rajput starts his string in right earnest.
Zimbabwe Cricket is facing a financial crisis and players’ revolt. Fears are ripe that Rajput, who has also been a former India national team manager, might not get the top talent to represent the country. “My first job will be to get the players ready for the triangular series. I have not yet met the players; I will go there and slowly find out everything, meet them, understand them, motivate them,” he said. “There is a lot of talent there, but I need to turn things around quickly and hopefully take them to the next level. The main thing is to get the players together and get them to perform as a unit,” says Rajput.
However, the cricketers are demanding to be paid their outstanding salaries, match fees and bonuses. After failing to qualify for the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup set for England and Wales, losing to minnows United Arab Emirates in their final match of the ICC WC Qualifier staged on home soil in March, the players received a lot of flak from the board and the fans.
Players, through their legal representative Gerald Mlotshwa, had given Zimbabwe Cricket a notice earlier this month to address the players’ grievances. The letter clearly showed that the players were not motivated ahead of the qualifiers since they had gone for many months without pay.
The issue is not resolved entirely. The concern remains whether Rajput will get to serve his term with quality players available for training.