Zim will end up like Kenya: What­more

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport -

DAV What­more is not a happy man. More than seven weeks af­ter he was fired as Zimbabwe’s coach, his pulse still quick­ens in anger as he talks of never hav­ing been treated as poorly in his 21 years of coach­ing at in­ter­na­tional level as he was in his Zimbabwe stint.

Ac­cord­ing to What­more, there was noth­ing about the team’s lack of per­for­mance un­der the ter­mi­na­tion clauses in his con­tract. He says that the end came sud­denly, with­out warn­ing, dur­ing a train­ing camp in Bu­l­awayo at the end of May, when man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Wil­fred Mukondiwa de­liv­ered the news while Zimbabwe Cricket chair­man Tavengwa Mukuh­lani stared at the floor.

Mukuh­lani de­clined to com­ment on the specifics of What­more’s sack­ing, point­ing to a signed agree­ment be­tween the par­ties that he be­lieves is con­fi­den­tial. "We have never com­mented on our part­ing with him in the me­dia based on that agree­ment," he says.

What­more be­lieves he was on no­tice from the time Mukuh­lani be­came chair­man last Au­gust, tak­ing over from Wil­son Manase, whose over­tures in De­cem­ber 2014, What­more says, were the main rea­son he de­cided to take a job that looked in­creas­ingly like a poi­soned chal­ice.

"These chal­lenges are noth­ing new to me — tak­ing on sides that are strug­gling," What­more says. "But more than that, this chair­man (Manase) fol­lowed up ev­ery call and ev­ery email and he wanted me, which was a great mo­ti­va­tional fac­tor."

ZC had at the time sacked coach Stephen Man­gongo af­ter a ten­ure that cul­mi­nated in a poor tour of Bangladesh where Zimbabwe lost all eight of their matches. What­more be­lieves that tour had a knock-on in­flu­ence on his own poor re­sults as Zimbabwe coach. "We were com­pet­i­tive in all the World Cup matches (in 2015) af­ter I took over. But the af­ter­noon of the Pak­istan match in Queensland, when Bren­dan Tay­lor told me, 'Dav, I'm sorry but I'm leav­ing', I felt so de­jected. I knew then that was the be­gin­ning of the end for that team. He was the only player who was able to win some games for you. When he told me that, it was a hor­ri­ble feel­ing. "When he'd made that de­ci­sion to leave, he hadn't known that I was go­ing to be around, he didn't know that there were go­ing to be so many matches to be played in 2015, and he didn't re­alise that the en­vi­ron­ment would be so much health­ier for the whole team. So we were com­pet­i­tive in all of those games, but af­ter he left, that's when it be­came really dif­fi­cult." What­more's as­ser­tion that Tay­lor would have stayed on in Zimbabwe is backed up by an in­ter­view the bats­man gave in Jan­uary this year, when he said: "If it wasn't for the tour to Bangladesh at the end of 2014, I would prob­a­bly have seen myself still play­ing for Zimbabwe — cer­tainly for an­other year. "I've never hated cricket so much as on that tour. The way the play­ers were han­dled and treated, es­pe­cially spo­ken to, I couldn't com­pre­hend it. I think with the change of coach and the change of at­mos­phere, the way the play­ers were so con­fi­dent and re­laxed when changes were made, I think that's why I felt I could play my best cricket again at the World Cup, whereas in Bangladesh it was a tor­rid seven weeks."

De­spite Tay­lor's su­perb World Cup, where he was the fourth high­est run scorer, Zimbabwe only beat the UAE. They did, how­ever, run South Africa, Pak­istan and In­dia close, and lost to Ire­land by just five runs. With­out Tay­lor, What­more's Zimbabwe con­tin­ued to strug­gle, but they did beat In­dia in a T20I and won one-day games against New Zealand and Pak­istan. Over­all they won nine out of 33 com­pleted ODIs un­der What­more, and six out of 20 T20Is, giv­ing him win per­cent­ages that were slightly higher than Zimbabwe's all-time records, and very sim­i­lar to those of other coaches over the past six years.

But it was the twin se­ries de­feats to Afghanistan that irked Mukuh­lani and his board. "If What­more was coach­ing In­dia and he lost three times in a row to Afghanistan, would he have sur­vived?" asks Mukuh­lani. "Why on earth should he sur­vive for do­ing that in Zimbabwe? Our rank­ing fell be­low Ire­land and Afghanistan un­der his watch, so we need to be fair with each other.

"If What­more was fired af­ter los­ing to In­dia, I would not even have ac­cepted the board to do that. But we strug­gled against Ire­land in Harare and scraped through [Zimbabwe won a one-day se­ries 2-1 in Oc­to­ber]. We lost to Afghanistan three times in a row. We strug­gled against Scot­land in the World T20. We were not very con­vinc­ing against Hong Kong in that tour­na­ment, and we were com­pletely out­classed by Afghanistan in the fi­nal match in Nag­pur. So put your­self in my po­si­tion and the board’s."

In truth, Zimbabwe have never had a side that won fre­quently for over a decade now. The dif­fer­ence from one in­car­na­tion to the next is gen­er­ally how com­pet­i­tive they are when they lose, and What­more's team showed im­prove­ment in this re­gard. Just six out of their 24 de­feats were by 100-plus runs or more than five wick­ets, whereas his two pre­de­ces­sors, Andy Waller and Man­gongo, saw their teams lose 10 out of 27 ODIs by those mar­gins, and win just six. In the wake of What­more's dis­missal, the three ODIs against In­dia were all lost by eight or more wick­ets un­der in­terim coach Makhaya Ntini.

There was also im­prove­ment in the bat­ting dur­ing What­more's ten­ure. In 2014, only Sikan­dar Raza scored a cen­tury in Zimbabwe's 16 ODIs. Un­der What­more, 10 hun­dreds were scored by six dif­fer­ent bats­men in 32 ODIs be­tween Jan­uary 2015 and Jan­uary 2016.

What­more ac­cepts that his win-loss record was poor, but also points to the lim­it­ing fac­tors. "To be smart about it, you look a bit deeper to see what you had to work with. That is para­mount. And con­sid­er­ing the avail­able tal­ent and the amount of times we had in­juries to key play­ers as well, I thought that we did as good a job as we pos­si­bly could. The big­gest miss there was Bren­dan Tay­lor, and then we had a lit­tle gem in Graeme Cre­mer com­ing back. So one really good player left and one good one came back. If we had both of them, I reckon it would have been a bit dif­fer­ent. We might have still had our fair share of losses, but we would have won one or two more."

He adds that the de­feat to Afghanistan in Bu­l­awayo was not helped by the con­di­tions Zimbabwe de­liv­ered. "We were giv­ing them tai­lor-made con­di­tions for the vis­it­ing team," he says. "I just asked for some­thing that's hard and true. A lit­tle bit of spin is all right. In­stead, we had sub­con­ti­nen­tal con­di­tions. And don't for­get Graeme Cre­mer, our No. 1 spin­ner, was not avail­able. But they don't un­der­stand the game.

"The other ma­jor point upon re­flec­tion is that the de­ci­sions made by the (Mukuh­lani) cricket board were taken by the board them­selves, rather than go­ing through the proper com­mit­tees. They're mak­ing arbitrary de­ci­sions, as peo­ple sit­ting around a ta­ble who know noth­ing about the game.

"Also, you've got to have a struc­ture that has a path­way through which play­ers can per­form and then get pro­moted and then play mean­ing­ful com­pe­ti­tion and get pro­moted again, and so on. It's non-ex­is­tent in Zimbabwe. There is no clear path­way. Or no good path­way any­way. Four (fran­chise) teams? I mean bloody hell. And they play each other twice, so that's six games a year, and that's it. Some play­ers are just play­ing the odd game a year be­cause there's no sec­ond team. In­ter­na­tion­als come back into fran­chise teams and then your fran­chise guys are just car­ry­ing wa­ter. It is really a dere­lic­tion of duty for the game."

An­other bug­bear for him was the fact that he had no say in the hir­ing and fir­ing of as­sis­tant coaches once Mukuh­lani took over. Ac­cord­ing to What­more, Waller was axed as bat­ting coach — de­spite the bats­men's gains — with­out his in­put, and Ntini and Marvin Ata­p­attu were brought on board. "I thought it was dis­re­spect­ful," he says. "I'm ex­pected to work with these peo­ple and they re­port to me, but I have no say about who they are."

Mukuh­lani claims that What­more's com­plaint is in­con­sis­tent: "When he was ap­pointed by the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion, What­more did not come with back­room staff and he had no is­sue with that. Now that we are giv­ing him back­room staff, he has an is­sue with our ap­point­ments, I find that very con­fus­ing. That's num­ber one.

"Num­ber two is that af­ter ev­ery se­ries, the tech­ni­cal staff must give their feed­back. There was no re­quest from Dav that he would want to ap­point his back­room staff. We have a duty — not only a moral one but a con­sti­tu­tional one — to ap­point the tech­ni­cal staff. It is within our rights."

What­more says that he was en­ti­tled to the fi­nal nine months’ pay from his con­tract when he was sacked. In­stead he set­tled for three months, plus leave owing, bonuses owing and re­im­burse­ment for flights. "I could have sued them but it would have been like an­other Phil Sim­mons," he says. Sim­mons’ le­gal wran­gle with ZC has stretched for more than a decade fol­low­ing his dis­missal as Zimbabwe coach in 2005, when he had two years re­main­ing on his con­tract.

What­more’s dis­missal at the end of May meant that Zimbabwe had been through three coaches in two years. They also shuf­fled through three cap­tains, three se­lec­tion con­venors, two bowl­ing coaches and three bat­ting coaches or con­sul­tants be­tween In­dia's tour in July last year and their visit this June. "The main is­sue is that ZC looks to blame ev­ery­one else and never points the fin­ger while look­ing into the mir­ror," What­more says.

"I think it will end up like Kenya. Cricket will never die be­cause it’s in the schools and some of the schools take it se­ri­ously even if they may not play enough cricket. And it will be ex­posed on tele­vi­sion — there will al­ways be some com­pe­ti­tion there. But al­ready, play­ers are pre­fer­ring to go over­seas to fur­ther their ca­reers. If you really had to pre­dict, I can't see it sur­viv­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally — par­tic­u­larly if they don't get the same fund­ing. They're get­ting $8-9 mil­lion a year and they've got a debt of al­most $20m. If they get a re­duced amount of fund­ing, what's go­ing to hap­pen then?" — ESPNcricinfo

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