HARARE - Zimbabwe must overcome the discord in their camp as well as a skill handicap when they take on South Africa in a one-day international triangular series match in Harare on Friday. While Zimbabwe have traditionally struggled against world cricket's heavyweights, their challenge appears to have become even greater as the players have taken issue with new coach Stephen Mangongo's methods.
Zimbabwe have not come close to winning a match since Mangongo took over last month, losing a Test and three ODIs to South Africa, and then sinking to a record 198-run defeat to Australia in Monday's tri-series opener. While South Africa were busy beating Australia by seven wickets on Wednesday, Zimbabwe were reeling from the news that Tinashe Panyangara, one of their senior seamers, had been expelled from the squad for sharing a video of an opposition bowler on the team's Whatsapp group.
Ahead of Monday's game, Panyangara sent a video of Australia fast bowler Mitchell Johnson tearing through the English batting line-up during the recent Ashes series, which the team management deemed to be "disruptive". He has subsequently been omitted from the squad for the remainder of the tri-series and sent to train with the 'A' team.
Mangongo has also implemented a harsh selection policy since his arrival, insisting that nobody in his team is safe from the axe, and has been disinclined to reassess his methods despite the poor results. "Whether you're playing game one, game 20, game 200, pressure is always there," he said of his selection policy. "And if you don't perform, I don't see any science in you playing. So yes there's pressure and yes there will always be pressure if you don't do well."
South Africa captain AB de Villiers is confident that he will be fit for the encounter, despite suffering from severe cramp in his left leg during his innings on Wednesday. De Villiers' magnificent 136 not out from just 106 deliveries saw South Africa chase down an Australian target of 328 with 20 balls to spare. "I've got a history of cramping a lot, especially in the high-adrenaline games," he said. "For some reason I start seeing it a bit better when I start cramping."
The Proteas will consider a recall for fast bowler Kyle Abbott after Wayne Parnell conceded 66 runs in just seven overs against Australia. However De Villiers insisted that he was not overly concerned by the third seamer's berth, and professed himself to be happy with South Africa's World Cup preparations. "There's no doubt we've got what it takes," he said. "There's still a long way to go and luckily it's not right now - I don't think we're 100% ready yet. But we're definitely moving at a great pace in the right direction."