Cricket Badger spoke exclusively to Tuskers head coach Wayne James recently, getting his view on all things from targets for this season to players to look out for.
He also told us that, due to the parlous nature of ZC’s finances, coaching in Zimbabwe is often as much about looking after players’ welfare as implementing technical improvements. The full interview is printed below:
Q: What do you put last season’s disappointing performance down to?
A: It was disappointing but you have to understand that we lost the vast majority of our champion side from previous seasons. We took a conscious decision pre-season to rebuild and blooded a lot of youngsters who had been on the fringes for several seasons. I think the fruits of that decision are being realised now with the likes of [Brian] Chari, Nkosana Mpofu, [Godwill] Mamhiyo, and [Stephen] Chimhamhiwa putting their hands up and taking greater responsibility within the unit.
Q: What have you changed to do so well this season?
A: The honest truth is that in our first discussion of the season a huge emphasis was placed on getting the enjoyment back into our game. It seems the enjoyment factor has dwindled of late and we all resolved to work hard and play hard but enjoy ourselves in the process. This I believe has kept players fresher both mentally and physically.
It also helps that we have a great bunch of guys who are extremely dedicated despite the hardships currently faced! Third factor I think is the fact that we do have a very talented group of players and credit must go to them for performances thus far. A great blend of mature experienced players mixed in with the exuberance of youth.
Q: The bowling attack appears particularly strong, was that an area targeted for improvement?
A: We do have a strong attack which has been bolstered by the inclusion of Brian Vitori. More importantly we have a group of bowlers who are able to bowl to whichever plan we might decide on, discipline as a bowling unit is key for me, and by and large we do execute those skills well as a unit!
Coupled to that we have a quality off-spinner in John Nyumbu, and Sean Williams now believes in himself as a left-arm spinner so we do have a well-rounded attack. Tawanda Mupariwa is a quality bowler and with Vitori at the other end as a strike bowler, they work very well as a pair.
It was never targeted for improvement as we have always had an outstanding attack. I just think as a unit they complement each other really well.
Q: We understand you have been assisting the national side, have you future ambitions in that area?
A: That’s correct. I was asked to assist with preparations for Bangladesh and enjoyed the experience. I was disappointed not to go to Bangladesh with the team but yes I do harbour ambitions of furthering my coaching career be it here at home or abroad.
Q: Chris Mpofu has drifted off the international scene after injury troubles, how is his comeback going? He has only played Pro50 thus far this season, will we see more of him?
A: As you rightly say Chris is on the comeback trail and needs to be managed very carefully in terms of his workloads. He has performed admirably in the three Pro50 games he has played and is working hard on his fitness and strength. We will be guided by our physio who is monitoring him very closely and will resist temptations to get him back into the longer version before he is ready. I am hopeful we will see him in action in the New Year but time will tell.
Q: Does Tawanda Mupariwa see himself as a realistic chance of making the World Cup squad after being named in the provisional squad? (Mupariwa has since been included in the final 15)
A: Tawanda is one of the most hard-working cricketers I have worked with and he is a naturally self confident type of bloke. He backs his abilities in whichever situation presents itself and I know he will be a success if given the opportunity. His record of late certainly speaks volumes about his abilities and I for one would have him in my side any day!
Q: For people looking at Zimbabwean cricket from the outside it seems to have a lot of problems, is it difficult to coach a franchise with that as a backdrop?
A: As I have mentioned earlier we have a fantastic squad of players and they do have a lot of off-field issues to content with. The biggest challenge I find is the man management issues revolving around the off-field problems. I guess a successful coach is one who not only offers technical advice but also one who deals effectively with all aspects of his players welfare!
Q: What are your hopes for the season? What can the Tuskers achieve?
A: I hope that this team can grow as a cricket side. We do have a long way to go and a lot to learn but I certainly think we are on the right track and our ’Work Hard, Play Hard’ motto will yield results. In terms of what we can achieve, naturally every side wants to put silverware in the cabinet, but the season is still young and would just like to be sure of good consistent performances from all in the squad for the duration of the season.
Q: Can you give us an established player to watch?
A: For me Sean Williams is worth keeping an eye on. He is extremely talented and has had a cracking season thus far. I still believe he is capable of bigger and better things.
Q: Can you give us an emerging player that has impressed you that we can look out for in the future?
A: Luke Jongwe is most certainly one to watch out for but also keep an eye out for our young captain Godwill Mamhiyo. He has impressed both last season and this one so far and has a very bright future in my opinion. One only has to look at franchise stats from both this and last season. It will not be long before our national selectors will have to take notice of his achievements to date!
Cricket Badger would like to thank all at Tuskers cricket, especially their media team, for their time and wish them all the best for the ongoing season. You can follow then on Twitter @tuskerscricketZ