A quick peek at the records suggests Zimbabwe will again not have it easy against South Africa when the neighbours clash in a three-match one-day international (ODI) series starting in Kimberley this Sunday.
In their 17 ODI meetings on South African soil so far, the home side has enjoyed a 94 percent success rate, which includes the 3-0 series defeat Zimbabwe suffered the last time they visited for an ODI series in October 2010.
But Zimbabwe coach Lalchand Rajput is not baulking at the sight of those records.
Instead, he arrived in Kimberley this week oozing confidence having taken his charges through an intensive two-month training camp ahead of the South Africa tour, which also includes three Twenty20 international (T20I) matches between the two sides.
With senior players Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams and Craig Ervine back in the fold to join up with the experienced captain Hamilton Masakadza as well as the fit-again duo of Solomon Mire and Kyle Jarvis, Rajput’s optimism is probably justified.
“South Africa is always a big challenge, but a challenge always gets the best out of me and the players,” said Rajput, named Zimbabwe’s substantive head coach in August after leading the side on an interim basis in home series involving Australia and Pakistan.
“The series we played when I took over was not good for us, but it was never going to be easy to face Australia and Pakistan in the T20I triangular series and then Pakistan in the ODI series when we were missing seven to eight players,” he said.
“But now that the players are back, it looks a balanced team – a team that wants to do well.
“Apart from Graeme Cremer and Sikandar Raza, most of our senior players are back and, when experience and youth combine, we can get the best out of the team.”
More than 18 years since Zimbabwe recorded their only ODI win over South Africa in South Africa – a two-wicket victory achieved in Durban – Rajput is fancying his side’s chances of doing it again.
“We have had a very good preparatory camp for two months and when you prepare well normally results will be on your side,” he said.
“South Africa has to be aware that this is not the Zimbabwe team of the past. This is a team that is going to give them a good run for their money,” Rajput said with confidence.
“We have come to show the world that we are a competitive team and every game is important. We are here to show we can play aggressive cricket and we are here to win.”
After Sunday’s meeting in Kimberley, South Africa and Zimbabwe will move to Bloemfontein for the second match set for 3 October before concluding the ODI series three days later in Paarl.
Zimbabwe ODI Squad: Hamilton Masakadza (captain), Solomon Mire, Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams, Peter Moor, Elton Chigumbura, Donald Tiripano, Kyle Jarvis, Brandon Mavuta, Richard Ngarava, Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, Wellington Masakadza, Ryan Murray, Tendai Chatara