Will Bundu be the man?

HARARE - The hunt for the new national team has started in earnest, with three local contenders in the running for the post.

Current batting coach, Grant Flower, assistant coach Steven Mangongo, and surprise package, Andrew “Bundu” Waller has also made himself available for the job.

All three candidates are in with a chance of taking over from Alan Butcher who will be concluding his three-year contract after the tour of the West Indies.

Flower is probably the man who has the most experience under his belt, and so would be a serious contender for the job.

The gritty right-hander represented his country in 67 Test matches, scoring 3 457 runs at an average of 29,55 which included six hundreds and 15 fifties.

He also played an impressive 221 One Day Internationals, scoring 6 571 runs at a respectable average of 33,53 with six hundreds, and 40 fifties.

He also proved himself as a more than useful bowler, taking two Test wickets, and 104 ODI wickets.

Flower also had his fair share of first class cricket, playing 188 first class matches, falling just short of 11 000 runs with a grand total of 10 898 runs.

Looking at the statistics, the age old saying been there, done that, springs to mind.

So there is no reason to doubt his on field credentials.

Flower also had  a tremendous work ethic and to this day is probably one of the country’s fittest sportsmen and is undoubtedly fitter than 90 percent of the current team.

The down side to Flower’s career however, is that it was often felt that he could have contributed more in team talks, especially to the younger players.

Flower’s silence and lack of participation in team talks wasn’t because he was rude or arrogant, it was simply because he was and still is a very quiet person who likes to get on with the actual game.

And, when he had a particularly bad day, he would prefer to withdraw into his own shell and run through the day’s events.

This quiet and withdrawn persona may appear to an outsider as sulking, which would be a wrong perception, but, may possibly count against him when the final decision is made.

The second contender has done huge amounts of work to ensure that previously disadvantaged cricketers were recognised not for their colour, or any enforced quota systems, but for the true and genuine talent that has now become a part of Zimbabwe’s cricketing history.

Tatenda Taibu, Hamilton Masakadza, Stuart Matsikinyeri are just a few names who thanks to Steven Mangongo have gone on to represent the country at the highest level of international cricket.

Mangongo’s paternal nature attracts and encourages youngsters and when having a conversation with him, you can’t help but be infected by the passion he has for the game, as well as the pride he has in his players, often referring to  them as (my boys).

Mangongo has also coached various Zimbabwe A sides and had huge success with the Mountaineers franchise back in the 2009-10 season with a team largely made up of locally-based players.

Like Flower, Mangongo has problems of his own, as he tends to wear his heart on his sleeve.

His emotions are not to dissimilar to the Cape Town weather.

When the team plays well, you would be hard pressed to find a bigger smile.

But when the team plays poorly, he does have tendencies to erupt into losses of temper, which has occasionally boiled over into the change room.

Once again, you cannot exactly fault Mangongo, nor Flower for their shortcomings, because both of them are passionate and set themselves as well as the team very high standards.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with high standards, and there is most certainly nothing wrong with being passionate about your job and your country.

After all, pride and passion are two ingredients that have been missing from cricket for a very long time.

But there is a very fine line between passion and making the players being made to feel uncomfortable. And deadly silences or volcanic eruptions would more than likely bring the worst out of the players.

So, do we have the balance that may possibly bring the best out of our players?

Nothing in cricket is set in stone, and so one can only try to get as close to the perfect balance as possible, which brings us to our third and final contender.

Andrew “Bundu” Waller may not have played as much international cricket as Grant Flower, but his knowledge and understanding of the game, as well as how to communicate with players is what makes this man a very likely candidate.

Unlike our current and some of our past players, Waller never had the luxury of playing cricket at professional level.

He had to juggle his career between playing club, first class and ODI cricket as well as been a highly successful farmer in the Centenary district, which meant that he was often unable to get to net practices.

This however, didn’t prevent him from keeping himself in top physical condition, and it also meant that when he played for his country, it was for the absolute love of the game.

Yes, it is true that cricket has become a professional sport since Waller’s days some might even refer to cricket as a business, and, yes!!!

Players do need to be looked after by their respective boards in order for the players to sustain themselves and their families.

But, because such a fuss has been made of non-payments, the performance of the team has become a real and genuine concern for those who love the game.

Pride and passion have fallen by the wayside, and it has also become very apparent that the team needs somebody who will be able to crack the whip, but at the same time also be able to communicate with the players.

Waller may be the man who will be able to restore discipline which has also fallen by the wayside, as well as a want and desire to play for the country.

He is very big into team bonding and isn’t afraid to engage himself in physical work.

Although Waller is also not afraid to speak his mind, he has a way of expressing himself that makes people stop what they’re doing, and listen.

He speaks quietly, but with command.

But more importantly, everything he says makes huge sense.

If he feels that a player isn’t pulling his weight and therefore is wasting both his and the team’s time, he will make his feelings very clear.

If he feels that an underperforming player has potential and needs to be given a chance to prove himself, he will go to great lengths to ensure the inclusion of the player.

In short, Andrew Waller is the missing link Zimbabwe has been looking for, and there is no doubt that should he be given the job as head coach of the national cricket team, players will listen to what he has to say, and in time, the pride, passion and desire to want to play for their country will return to the team, which in turn will reflect positively on the field. - Dean du Plessis

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