Melbourne – Zimbabwe coach Dave Houghton said he will be disappointed if his side fail to progress through the preliminary rounds when the T20 World Cup starts in Australia on Sunday.
Zimbabwe will open their campaign against Ireland on Monday before facing West Indies and Scotland in the first round in Hobart, needing to win two matches to guarantee a place in the Super 12 stage.
“We should be winning all three games,” said Houghton. “Anything less than that will be disappointing.”
Zimbabwe have played some impressive cricket since Houghton, Zimbabwe’s first Test captain back in 1992, was appointed for his second stint as national coach in July, a week before the World Cup qualifying tournament in Bulawayo.
Zimbabwe swept through the qualifiers unbeaten and followed up by beating Bangladesh in Twenty20 and one-day series in Harare.
They lost three World Cup Super League one-day matches against India but performed well at times against formidable opponents.
Their most recent competitive match was a one-day win against Australia in Townsville to finish a losing series on a high note.
“It was a difficult pitch to bat first on, so winning the toss was important, as it was in the two games Australia won. But it certainly sent positive thoughts throughout the camp.”
Zimbabwe have seldom been at full strength recently because of injuries, notably to captain Craig Ervine and key bowlers Blessing Muzarabani and Tendai Chatara, who are now fully recovered.
“At one stage we had five good players out injured, but we were still winning, which is a tribute to our depth. Now everyone is fit and I hope it stays that way.”
As a player, Houghton was part of a Zimbabwe team that was capable of competing with the best in the world. “We had a strong team then but we didn’t have the depth we have now,” he said.
“All the work we did on development 30 or 40 years ago is starting to pay dividends. We have five franchise teams in our domestic cricket and the standard is much better than it was in my day.
“My only concern is that we have a lot of players of similar ability. What we’re looking for is players who can rise head and shoulders above the rest as Andy Flower did when he played for us.”
Houghton says Zimbabwe’s strength is their bowling.
“In T20 cricket the teams that win tend to have the best bowlers. Our top-order batting has struggled at times but with all the bowlers back we have a competitive team.”
The coach was in Hobart recently on a scouting mission.
“The maximum temperature was about 17 degrees. It will probably be a bit like April in England, cloudy and cool, which should help the bowlers.”