“From a team perspective, the biggest positive is the amount of youngsters who played in this series,” Raza said. “Some of our big names were missing. We don’t get to play a lot of games, but the new guys did well as well. Tony played a quality cameo [in the second ODI], Victor bowled very well in the three games, Brad held his own, [and] Clive showed a glimpse of class.”
Zimbabwe were missing regular captain Craig Ervine due to hamstring and knee injuries, allrounder Sean Williams for what Zimbabwe Cricket said were “personal matters”, and pace bowlers Blessing Muzarabani and Tendai Chatara because of a tear in the thigh and a collarbone fracture, respectively.
“All the senior players are missing due to injuries. No one has been rested,” Raza said. “We are trying to bring a winning culture in the changing room. We have complained about Zimbabwe not playing a lot of games, so now that we are getting games, we didn’t think of resting.”
“One man doesn’t win cricket matches – not ODIs anyway. The unsung hero that nobody is talking about is Luke Jongwe,” Raza said. “He took the ball in difficult circumstances every game, he has bowled well. He has batted well too. He played an exceptional little cameo in the first ODI.
“You say that the focus is on me, but my focus is on the guys who have done well but not getting mentioned. Luke, Tony, Clive, Victor, [and] Bradley, who took the double-wicket [over] today [during the third ODI] – these things break the opposition’s back.”
“You have to be in the changing room to understand his value. It is no secret that he has done exceptionally well in a very short time,” Raza said. “Dave has brought that fearless cricket with some accountability, and by not being reckless. He pointed out rightly today that we were slightly on the reckless side.
“Apart from that, he has managed us well. He has a lot of care, love and respect for the players. We have it for Dave Houghton anyway, but to see a Zimbabwean legend give love, time and respect back to the players, [and] speaking one on one, it is hard to put it in words.”
He said that a big sign of Zimbabwe’s improvement was seeing how Richard Ngarava and Nyauchi, Nos. 10 and 11, added 68 runs for the tenth wicket, with the hosts at 83 for 9 in pursuit of 257 in the third ODI.
“The fans kept singing. The brand of cricket that we are trying to encourage to play is fearless,” Raza added. “It would have been easy for us to close shop at 130 for 8 , but we didn’t want to do that.
“We want to believe genuinely that we can win a game from any position. To see our No. 10 and 11 put on a 68-run partnership is encouraging. I was telling the coach that you found your new No 5. I am happy to go down!”
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84