OBSERVING Terrence Duffin at a Zimbabwe A match last year – when he was just another face among the youth brigade waiting in the wings for their chance to de
monstrate their talent – he seemed one of the most laid-back lads around.
Puffing a cigarette with his Bulawayo pal Charles “Chopper” Coventry after completing a defiant innings at the top of the order, it seemed nothing could jerk this burly bloke into urgent action.
Fast-forward seven months. A slimmer, livelier and more confident Duffin runs across from mid-off to pat Edward Rainsford on the back at the end of another good over as the opening Zimbabwe pace bowler tightens the screws on the Kenyan batsmen. He looks every bit the national captain.
You know how they say that life is never like the movies? Well, sometimes it turns out that it can provide the occasional fairy story.
As they say, it will not happen in an hour and that did not happen in seven years, as Duffin testifies: “I didn’t expect that I would be named captain, but I thought there was always a chance, and when it came I took it with both hands.”
Duffin holds the distinction of captaining Zimbabwe for the first time on his one-day international (ODI) debut. Following his commendable personal performances and tactical awareness as shown by his scoring a half-century on his debut and helping his side to a 2-2 series draw against a much-more experienced Kenya side, Duffin feels he can no longer be viewed as a crisis captain.
“Obviously it’s a big challenge, but I do have the qualities to be a leader. I captained the Under-19 side a few years ago, and I felt I did not do a bad job against Kenya,” he said.
“Self-belief is a big thing. That plays a big part. I think I have the right approach as a batsman and as a captain.”
The Kwekwe-born 23-year-old says he looks back at the recent drawn series against Kenya, thinking how his young side could have defied the odds to beat the Kenyans.
“We should have won the second Harare game and wrapped up the series 3-1 before that final ODI was washed away,” he remarked.
“I think the two games we won we got it right in all departments. The other two games we lost we got it all wrong. It is something that we have to work hard on.”
Duffin has been an opening batsman since his school days at Plumtree. But when he started playing first-class cricket three years ago, he batted as low as number nine for Midlands in the Logan Cup.
“I was playing with experienced guys and I got to learn a lot from them. That is when I moulded my game around the opening slot,” he pointed out.
Duffin has been described as an out-and-out attacker who does not have much to show in flair.
“I have a good temperament as an opening batsman,” he described himself. “You’ve got to respect the bowlers for who they are. I try to get to play to my strength and get the bowler to play to my strength.”
One of the memories of Duffin’s early captaincy would be sitting side-by-side with a fuming Kevin Curran, answering questions from journalists during the post-match news conference after the Kenyan bowlers wiped out Zimbabwe for 69 runs. Duffin had little to say during the interview, as he was not asked many questions. His coach’s drive and passion, he says, has changed the way the young players take responsibility.
“Most definitely he is a very demanding person and his works are good,” he said. “He tries to set standards high. I think he’s good for the players. Players are beginning to believe in themselves a little bit more.”
The ODI tour of the West Indies by Zimbabwe next month will be a big test for local resources, as the team works on its performance before the return to Test cricket. To Duffin, being competitive is crucial for Zimbabwe’s goals.
“If we get there and believe in ourselves we will get there,” he said. “The main aim is to compete to the best we can and see what happens. If we play well, who’s to say we can’t win?”