Chigumbura downplays Indian coach’s absence on Pakistan tour

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (AP) — Senior Zimbabwe batsman Elton Chigumbura on Wednesday downplayed the absence of his team’s Indian coach Lalchand Rajput, who was stopped from traveling for a limited-overs series in Pakistan amid heightened tensions between the two countries.

The Zimbabwe cricket board withdrew Rajput from the touring party after a request from the Indian Embassy in Harare and bowling coach Douglas Hondo will be the head coach for the tour.

“Nothing’s going to change,” Chigumbura told reporters in a virtual media conference in Rawalpindi on Wednesday. “The same system, same coaches that were under him (Rajput) are the ones that are leading the team, so all the values of the team are still the same.

“We are having a meeting over a conference call and I’m sure he’ll be part of the strategy, so it’s just a matter of us as players to carry on and make sure that we implement what he always emphasized to us.”

The 34-year-old Chigumbura is among six remaining players who last toured Pakistan in 2015 when Zimbabwe was the first full International Cricket Council member country to tour the country since an attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009.

“Obviously it’s good to be back in Pakistan,” he said. “The first time we came here five years ago, everyone was a bit scared, but I think the way they hosted us last time, we are confident that we are in safe hands and so far everyone is comfortable. And after having our first training session today, we are looking forward to the matches.”

Zimbabwe will play Pakistan in three one-day internationals in Rawalpindi and three Twenty20 games in Lahore, with the first ODI on Oct. 30. No fans will be allowed to attend any of the games because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Zimbabwe will observe a seven-day isolation period during which they will hold closed training sessions at the Army Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi.

Chigumbura has fond memories of his own batting performance when Zimbabwe last toured Pakistan despite the fact that his team was whitewashed in both ODI and Twenty20 series. He scored career-best 117 in a one-day international on that tour and then his best ever Twenty20 score of 54.

“I believe we can be competitive, we came here to win,” Chigumbura said. “Everyone is raring to go, especially after being out of cricket for almost six, seven months.”

But there’s a sharp decline in Chigumbura’s batting form over the last five years during which he has scored just one half century in ODIs. But Chigumbura, a veteran of 213 ODIs, said it was more due to injuries and that he’s now fully fit.

“I got an Achilles injury last year and when I was about to just start playing again, then the COVID-19 pandemic happened,” he said. “I’m happy to be back in the squad and hopefully we get a chance to enjoy every moment.”

Zimbabwe last played international cricket in March when they toured Bangladesh for an ODI series before the coronavirus stopped sporting activities around the globe.


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