Dingilizwe Ntuli Sports Editor
ZIMBABWE Cricket (ZC) yesterday appointed former South African paceman Makhaya Ntini as the Chevrons’ bowling coach on a two-year deal and former Sri Lanka captain and coach Marvan Atapattu as a consultant batting coach for the tour of Bangladesh this month with an option of a long-term contract.
Ntini will join the Chevrons on February 16, replacing incumbent bowling coach Douglas Hondo, who has been re-assigned to the Zimbabwe A team.
The bold appointments are an attempt by ZC to arrest the rapidly declining cricket standards of the national team, which was underlined by the embarrassing back-to-back One Day International series’ defeats to Associate Member Afghanistan in Bulawayo last year and recently in the United Arab Emirates.
The October 2015 five-match ODI series defeat to the Afghans in Bulawayo marked the first time a Test nation had lost a series to an Associate Member.
The Zimbabwe Cricket Supporters Union (ZCSU) expressed disappointment at the team’s performances in the five-match ODI and Twenty20 series to Afghanistan in the UAE this month.
The defeat left Zimbabwe languishing at number 12 in the International Cricket Council ODI rankings and the supporters’ body demanded the sacking of captain Elton Chigumbura and resignation of the entire ZC board, saying they had brought shame on the national game.
Ntini is expected to breathe life into the impotent Zimbabwe bowling attack, which has to some extent been to blame for most losses. The bowlers are unable to take wickets at regular intervals, placing loads of pressure on the equally ineffective, if not incompetent batsmen.
Ntini, 38, had an illustrious playing career as the first black African to play cricket at Test level for South Africa, taking 390 Test wickets to become the Proteas’ third-highest Test wicket-taker of all time.
Ntini was first spotted by a Border Cricket development officer as a 14-year-old and awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Dale College, which was then a predominantly white school, where he honed his cricketing talent.
He made his South Africa Test debut in 1998. In 2003, he became the first South African to take 10 wickets in a Test match at the hallowed Lord’s Ground in England. In 2008, he claimed 13 wickets for 132 runs in a Test match against the West Indies, which remain the best figures by a South African bowler in that format of the game.
He retired from international cricket in 2010, after playing 101 Test matches, 173 ODIs and 10 T20 Internationals for South Africa.
The failure by senior and top order batsmen has also contributed to Zimbabwe’s appalling climb down. Zimbabwe is unable to win matches because the batsmen are unable to score competitive totals or play long innings as they sometimes do not even exhaust their allotted 50 overs in ODIs.
Atapattu will be expected to help rid the batsmen of their immature and impatient batting that has often seen Zimbabwe being dismissed without a defendable total.
He will temporarily fill the vacancy left by the sacking of batting coach Andrew Waller in October last year.
Atapattu was appointed Sri Lanka coach from April 2014 after guiding the former world champions to a Test series win against England in England as an interim coach. He also enjoyed moderate success with Sri Lanka at the 2015 Cricket World Cup where they were bundled out in the quarter-finals by South Africa.
He quit his Sri Lankan coaching post a few weeks before his contract was due to expire in September last year following a series of bad results. He has also coached Canada and Singapore.
Before his retirement, Atapattu played 90 Tests, 268 ODIs and two Twenty20s for Sri Lanka. He scored 5,502 Test runs and is fourth on the all-time double hundreds list, behind Australia’s Sir Donald Bradman (12) and England’s Walter Hammond and West Indies’ Brian Lara, with seven each.