HARARE – Fresh from his confirmation as head coach of the Zimbabwe Cricket team, Lalchand Rajput says he is delighted to welcome senior players ahead of tours to South Africa and Bangladesh.
Senior players including Graeme Cremer, Sikandar Raza, Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams and Craig Ervine had made themselves unavailable for selection in a dispute with Zimbabwe Cricket over the non-payment of their match fees.
Now with the dispute resolved, Rajput says they need the perfect preparations to get over some recent heavy loses.
“The biggest challenge is that I want to get the team where it was earlier because the team has fantastic players who have done really well, to have a full squad will be excellent,” he said.
“They will bring additional strength and confidence to the team. The likes of Taylor, Williams and Ervine – their coming back means a great deal.”
So far, Rajput has no complaints with the Zimbabwean set-up and expressed his desire to get the team back on track in his time at the helm.
“It is an honour and privilege to work with Zimbabwe Cricket and I am really pleased to be given this opportunity to take this team to the next level, to work hard and ensure we make a difference in the coming years,” he said.
Rajput’s first assignment as permanent head coach will be a limited-overs tour to South Africa at the end of the September before a two-Test, three ODI series in Bangladesh in October-November. Zimbabwe are not scheduled to play any home matches until at least July 2019.
Rajput replaced Heath Streak, who was sacked alongside his entire support staff following the failed 2019 World Cup qualifying campaign, and remains in legal dispute with Zimbabwe Cricket.
ZC did not provide details on Rajput’s contract term, with a spokesperson only describing it as “long-term” but indicated Rajput would remain in charge for the 2020 World T20 and beyond.
“We are targeting qualification for the next T20 and 50-over World Cup tournaments and we believe Lalchand has the pedigree and experience to build a young side and help us achieve our goals,” Tavengwa Mukuhlani, the ZC chairman said.
Rajput has already overseen Zimbabwe’s participation in a T20 triangular series involving Australia and Pakistan and a five-match ODI series against Pakistan. Zimbabwe lost all nine matches they played across those series but had the challenge of a depleted squad owing to the dispute over outstanding salaries.
Since then, ZC have been put on an ICC scheme which allows a drip-feed of funds into their system to help them manage their money and pay off substantial debt. The ICC allowed a special disbursement to cover outstanding salaries last month and four of the five players have returned to work. Raza remains uncertain of his future in Zimbabwe.
ZC have embarked on major cost-cutting. This includes the non-renewal of most staff contracts at the end of August. A small number of employees will be brought on board to ensure the domestic restart in November but there has been no confirmation of how many people ZC will hire, with Rajput being the first appointment since the new funding model was announced.