The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
WHEN the Zimbabwe Cricket board finally decided to remove Lalchand Rajput as the head coach of the country’s men team, that decision brought to an end a disastrous spell in which the Chevrons have become laughing stock in international cricket.
On the day the Indian was handed over the task of technical director with the head coach position given to former Zimbabwe batsman Dave Houghton, the team slumped to yet another defeat, as they went down by 35 runs to Afghanistan in the third Twenty20 International at Harare Sports Club. That was Zimbabwe’s seventh defeat in a row.
It all started with the loss to Namibia in the fifth Twenty20 International at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo which saw Namibia win the series 3-2, their first ever success in this format of the game over an ICC Full Member.
More embarrassment was to follow for Zimbabwe in the limited overs matches against Afghanistan played at Harare Sports Club. Zimbabwe were first humiliated 3-0 by the Afghans in the three-match ODI series, which saw the Asians collect all the points at stake as the matches were part of the International Cricket Council Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League, the qualification pathway for next year’s World Cup set for India.
Zimbabwe are down to 15th on the ICC Men’s ODI Team Rankings, with countries such as Ireland, Scotland, United Arab Emirates and Netherlands now above them. More misery was inflicted on the Zimbabweans by Afghanistan when the visitors took the T20I series 3-0.
Looking at Rajput’s record, he only won 21 and lost 71 of the 96 matches played by Zimbabwe from the beginning of July 2018 until last Tuesday.
In Tests, he won just two, drew one and lost seven of the five-day contests he presided over. Under Rajput, Zimbabwe recorded just six ODI wins out of 39 matches, lost 30 times, had one tie and a no result. In 48 T20Is, Zimbabwe only managed 13 wins and 34 losses with one match tied.
What is shocking is how ZC persisted with Rajput for so long when the warning signs were there from the beginning that he was a failure. Zimbabwe lost 17 matches on the trot between July and October 2018 before they halted that losing streak with a win by 151 runs in the first Test against Bangladesh in Sylhet.
Rajput, a 2007 ICC T20 Cricket World Cup winner with India was first hired by ZC on an interim basis as a replacement for Heath Streak in May 2018. ZC made his appointment permanent in August of that year despite Zimbabwe losing nine matches in a row from the time he was engaged.
Rajput’s contract expired in September last year and just when Zimbabwean cricket fans expected the ZC board to do the right thing, his stay was extended and they are stuck with him until next year, unless if he quits. Just how a coach with such a pathetic record in international cricket deserved a contract extension is baffling.
ZC managing director, Givemore Makoni said Rajput is still contracted until next year’s 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup in India. This would explain why ZC did not completely get rid of the floundering Rajput, instead reassigning him.
“That’s why he has been reassigned while we see off his contract,’’ said Makoni.
On what exactly is Rajput’s role seeing a technical director is usually a higher position than that of head coach, Makoni had this to say “He advises the technical staff. And the head coach works directly with the players.”
Those sympathetic to Rajput point to the players not performing, yet it was the coach who kept on selecting the same players who kept letting him down.
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