India vs Zimbabwe 2016: Why did Zimbabwe Cricket remove Coach Dave Whatmore and Captain Hamilton Masakadza?
Zimbabwe is all in readiness to host the Indian cricket team for the second time in 2 years as the two teams take on each other in 3 ODIs and 2 T20Is. Although India have picked a primarily second-string side for the tour, it does include their regular limited-overs skipper MS Dhoni. The Zimbabwean side for the tour has not been announced yet; however, the board has dismissed both skipper Hamilton Masakadza and head coach Dav Whatmore from their services. It comes across as quite a surprising decision, considering the fact that a tour of such great importance is less than 2 weeks away.
The reason that has been cited by Zimbabwe Cricket behind the unceremonious sacking of the captain-coach duo is the team’s poor performance in the ICC World Twenty20. Zimbabwe failed to reach the Super 10 stage of the tournament as they crashed out after losing to Afghanistan in the qualifiers. While leg-spinner Graeme Cremer has replaced Masakadza as the skipper for the moment, bowling coach Makhaya Ntini will assume the responsibility of head coach until a formal decision is reached.
Zimbabwean cricket is no longer in the same state as it was during the late 1990s and early 2000s when the team not only posed a threat to major international cricketing nations but also managed to beat them every now and then. Politics has had its role to play in their steep decline and also the sudden dearth of talented players in their ranks over the past few years.
Dav Whatmore, a former Australian cricketer, is known to be one of the best cricket coaches one has come across in at least the last two decades. His biggest claim to fame till date remains his stint with Sri Lanka during the 1996 World Cup, which took them to the pinnacle of success after they emerged as champions. Whatmore also proved to be quite a miracle worker for the Bangladesh cricket team as they managed to make it past the group stage of the 2007 ICC World Cup by pulling off an upset over India. Another one of the Aussie coach’s major successes came in 2012 when he helped Pakistan lift the Asia Cup.
Whatmore took over as Zimbabwe’s head coach from Stephen Mangongo in December 2014. His first big assignment was the 2015 ICC World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and despite a spirited performance, the Zimbabwean team crashed out in the group stage of the tournament with just a solitary win. This was followed by multiple dismal showings in limited-overs cricket against the likes of India, New Zealand, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
However, there were a few high points as well, particularly in T20I cricket, as Zimbabwe drew a series at home against India and two others against Bangladesh. Due to this, they were expected to perform well in the World Twenty20 and at least qualify for the Super 10 stage.
Hamilton Masakadza took over as skipper of the Zimbabwean team prior to the marquee tournament of T20 cricket after Elton Chigumbura stepped down. Things were looking completely on track for Masakadza’s men as they beat Hong Kong and Scotland in their first two matches and needed to get past Afghanistan in order to qualify. Unfortunately, though, the Afghans were the better side on the day and trounced Zimbabwe by 59 runs to make it through.
Such a shocking exit from a tournament which provides a perfect platform for the weaker sides to prove their mettle does not seem to have gone down too well with the board. The fact that the results have not come despite Whatmore being around for quite a duration of time as head coach has prompted them to bring an end to his stint. Masakadza, though, can consider himself a little hard done as he only got 3 matches to prove himself.
Although it will be interesting to see whether the decision to sack the Whatmore-Masakadza combine is a correct one or not, it surely proves that the Zimbabwean cricket board are looking to improve the quality of their cricket.