Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE cricket Legend Dave Houghton has set his sights on helping the ailing Chevrons qualify for this year’s ICC Men’s T20 World Cup as a starting point to his latest tenure as head coach.
The former Zimbabwe skipper, who replaced Lalchand Rajput a fortnight ago, will team up with his players and technical team today as they embark on a 10-day training camp in Bulawayo.
The Chevrons are looking to maximise on the time in camp as they prepare for the ICC T20 World Cup qualifying tournament set to be hosted in the same city in the coming weeks. The cricket jamboree is set to bring together eight teams, including hosts Zimbabwe, in the battle for the remaining two slots for this year’s T20 World Cup finals to be held in Australia.
The qualifying tournament is set to take place at Queens Sports Club and Bulawayo Athletic Club between July 11 and July 17.
Zimbabwe go into the tournament as the favourites and have been placed in Group A along with USA, Singapore and Jersey. Group B comprises Hong Kong, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea and Uganda.
“We go down to Bulawayo tomorrow (today) and we will have a good 10 days of preparation before this Qualifier starts,” Houghton told The Herald yesterday.
“I want nothing less than to win the Qualifying tournament. It’s as simple as that. We are playing against sides that we should beat every day of the week. So if we can go out there and play the best cricket we can play we will be fine. The ambition is to win it.”
Houghton was appointed following a poor run of results that saw Zimbabwe losing a T20I series to Namibia for the first time, before experiencing a miserable tour whitewash by visiting Afghanistan.
Charged with the mandate to turn around Zimbabwe’s waning cricket fortunes, Houghton sounded confident of a turnaround. The Chevrons had come under intense criticism in the last few months because of poor results.
“I am only really getting to meet up with all the lads tomorrow (today). I have spoken to the captain and I have spoken to one or two senior players and obviously they want to get it right,” said Houghton.
“They don’t enjoy having bad results either. I think we have got to get ourselves working properly as a unit and playing for the team.
“It’s been a little bit of individualism that needs to be stamped out. But the talent is amazing and our skills are very good. So it’s just about getting ourselves playing properly.”
Houghton said he was excited by the young talents coming up the ranks but stressed that only performance will guarantee an individual’s place in the team.
“I am not really worried about a person’s age. If they are still fulfilling a role within the team it’s fantastic. You need senior players and you need young, junior players as well. That’s the way of the cricket game.
“At the moment we have a nice balance of senior players and youngsters.”
Houghton captained Zimbabwe in their inaugural Test against India in 1992 and scored a century on debut. He went on to notch up three more in his 22 Test matches.
His 266 against Sri Lanka in Bulawayo in 1994 remains Zimbabwe’s highest individual Test score.
In his long career, Houghton also coached Derbyshire, Middlesex in county cricket and in the domestic game with Mountaineers. Houghton was in charge of Zimbabwe during their memorable run to the Super Six stage of the 1999 World Cup in England, following impressive group-stage wins over India and South Africa. He is excited by the new challenge ahead.
“I am very much looking forward to the challenge. I’d always wanted to give back to Zimbabwe Cricket, where I learnt everything about cricket.
“That’s where I played all my cricket and the opportunity to come back and lead the national team is one I relish,” he said.