‘We’ve learnt a lot from what we’ve been through’ – Sean Williams

Allrounder Sean Williams sees success in Bangladesh as “extremely important” as Zimbabwe seek a return to normalcy after a chaotic couple of months off the field.

Zimbabwe were suspended by the ICC in July, resulting in them missing out on the T20 World Cup Qualifiers in October, as well as losing access to ICC’s funding. The suspension also raised tensions within the squad.

“We’ve learnt a lot from what we’ve been through,” Williams said after Zimbabwe’s net session at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chattogram, where they will take on hosts Bangladesh on Wednesday. “You can see the team starting to bond more and more, and come together more as a unit.”

Zimbabwe lost their first two matches of the tri-series, going down to a narrow three-wicket defeat to Bangladesh on Friday before they were flattened by a rampant Afghanistan the following night. They have two games left to play, and need to win both if they are to have a realistic chance of reaching the final next Tuesday.

“Both games are must-win games for us,” Williams said. “If we do the basic things correctly, that is our fielding, you know there are fine margins in this game, and if we can improve in those areas we stand a good chance of winning both of these games. If we can make better decisions on the field more frequently, I think we have a good chance of pushing through.”

On current form, Zimbabwe probably have a better chance of success against the hosts than they do a buoyant Afghan outfit. With an unwilling captain at the helm and a shake-up to the domestic system serving as a distracting backdrop, Bangladesh are also still reeling from a disappointing World Cup campaign and their recent Test defeat to Afghanistan. But Williams insisted his team-mates won’t be taking Bangladesh lightly.

“They’re under pressure, and we know that,” Williams said. “But again, it goes back to us doing the basics [right]. Bangladesh is a very strong team, all around. They’ve got a very good structure, going all the way down to the club levels. T20 cricket can go either way. It’s fine margins.

“They’ve got some very good players and some experienced campaigners: Shakib, Mahmudullah, Mushy [Mushfiqur Rahim]. They’re all very good players and we respect that fact. There’s no game we’re ever going to take lightly. We’d just like to go out there, focus on our own things, and do what’s required for our team. If we focus on what we need to do, everything will take care of itself.”

Zimbabwe have a fair amount of experience in their own ranks: this is Williams’ seventh trip to Bangladesh with Zimbabwe, and he has also turned out for teams in the Bangladesh Premier League and the Dhaka Premier Division Cricket League. Senior batsman Brendan Taylor and captain Hamilton Masakadza are similarly experienced in these conditions. While the seniors have done their part in imparting some of their knowledge, Williams said they needed to play a stronger role on the field.

“We give a lot of input to the junior guys. It’s how they take it in. What we do as senior players is important as the backbone of the team, to teach them for the future. There have been a few of us underperforming of late, so we need to step up as a senior group and get the juniors following. They’ve got us out of trouble twice now. If the seniors can step up and do well – Craig [Ervine], myself, Brendan is showing signs of very good form. So if we can step up, we’ll have a very good chance.”

Williams himself will lead Zimbabwe on their next assignment, another T20I tri-series featuring Nepal and Singapore, and said he is excited by the talent coming through Zimbabwe’s ranks.

“Leading up to the Singapore series, with some younger guys coming to join the squad and a couple of senior guys going across to Singapore, it’s going to be exciting,” he said. “I really look forward to having those junior guys coming through the ranks. They’re already showing signs that some of them could be world-class players. I wish them all the very best, and hopefully, we can watch them go all the way.”