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Lalchand Rajput: Zimbabwe didn’t just beat Pakistan, former Indian player has a big hand in this

Perth: Lalchand Rajput. The coach who made the Indian cricket team the 2007 T20 World Cup champion. He forgot the exact date but remembers it was in July 2018 when he took over as the head coach of the Zimbabwe men’s team. The next day the five-match ODI series against Pakistan started. The first ODI match against Pakistan was played on 13 July 2018. Rajput told- A day before the match, Zimbabwe Cricket informed me that Sean Irwin, Craig Williams, Sikandar Raza and Brendan Taylor have been out due to the ongoing salary dispute with the board. I was surprised.’

team lost badly

He said, ‘Zimbabwe Cricket’s Managing Director Givemore Makoni told me that we cannot cancel the series. We got an inexperienced side and in the first match we got 100 runs (107 runs) and then in the third match we were all out for around 50 (67 runs). After this happened I knew I had to stop for things to change. We failed to qualify for the 2019 ODI World Cup and then got suspended. That was the worst phase so I am proud of this transformation in just four years.

Zimbabwe thrashed Pakistan by one run on Wednesday to register one of their finest wins in the T20 World Cup and no one could be happier than Rajput, the current technical director of the national team. Rajput said, ‘My dream was to see him qualify for the T20 World Cup in Australia. It’s icing on the cake and I’m proud of my boys.’

Lalchand Rajput played only 6 international matches for India but he has a big name in coaching. Rajput was with the team till the qualifiers but he wanted to be with his family during Diwali and hence returned. With the departure of players such as Neil Johnson, Flower brothers Andy and Grant, Murray Goodwin, Paul Strang, Henry Olonga and Heath Streak, Zimbabwean cricket has been as successful as never before.

players changed their mind

Star batsman Sikandar Raza has scored five ODI hundreds only in 2022 while his only century in the 50-over format before the current season was in 2015. On Wednesday, Raza took three wickets with his off-spin and changed the course of the match to give the team a one-run victory.

Rajput said, ‘Sikander is a passionate boy. He is flourishing at the age of 36 as of late. I remember when I took office a few years back, I asked him, ‘How many matches have you won for Zimbabwe? He had not scored a century in a long time. He was scoring runs around 40 and sometimes half-centuries to secure his place in the team.

Rajput, a former Test opener, then brought Mumbai’s style to Raza and apart from him, had a heartfelt conversation with senior players like Williams, Irvine and captain Regis Chakabwa. “I told them that there is no point in playing for Zimbabwe if you seniors don’t come forward and take more responsibility in winning matches,” Rajput said. If the team has to lose, I would prefer to pick youngsters and not think about the consequences. It worked because their mindset changed.

Afghanistan’s former coach

Rajput actually had no plans to join Zimbabwe as he was happy to coach the Afghanistan team in Greater Noida. But things changed when the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) officials wanted him to come to Kabul to prepare the Under-19 national team for the Junior World Cup.

He said, ‘I told him specifically that I would never go to Kabul. So as soon as he insisted, I resigned. It was covered by the media and then within a week Makoni called me and offered me the job of head coach.
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