Patience gives Masakadza the edge

Enock Muchinjo

TEST cricket returns to Zimbabwe next month with the season-opening series against New Zealand.


The New Zealanders have already announced a strong side to tour Zimbabwe, and an exciti

ng battle should be on the cards between the two rival nations. The last time the Kiwis toured here, they came up against a strong Zimbabwe side which beat them in the one-day international (ODI) series and forced a draw in the Tests.

Seven of the 15 former dissenting Zimbabwe players are back in contention, and places in the team will be more difficult to get. With the selectors strictly using merit to choose the squad, it will be interesting to see who emerges out of the provisional squad into the final team.

The return of the experienced players means that there is some depth in Zimbabwe cricket. The young players who dominated the team last season now have to jostle for places with the older guys, and those who will make the team can feel that they really merit their places in the team.

Of the youngsters, one player who is certain to make the side even if all the experienced players were back is top order batsman Hamilton Masakadza.

Zimbabwe has a pool of promising cricketers, but Masakadza positions himself as an outstanding talent. He has had international commentators ranking him as one of the most promising young batsmen in the world, and a future world star.

These observations are hardly surprising, after no less a player than Andy Flower told a popular South African sports magazine that he was not very surprised that Masakadza scored a century on his Test debut aged only 17 against the West Indies in 1999. Flower played with Masakadza at the former Old Winstonians Club, now Takashinga.

Masakadza’s brilliant technique and ease when facing up to both spin and seam bowlers distinguishes him from the rest of the young batsmen coming through the ranks.

“My major strength is patience. I think that is why I am different from the other guys because I wait for the right ball to put away, and stay a bit longer at the crease,” Masakadza said.

The former Churchill High schoolboy joined the national team last season after completing degree studies at a South African university. After playing in the home ODI series against England, in which he did not do particularly well, Masakadza picked his form in Bangladesh when he was one of the resistant Zimbabwean batsmen.

“We did not play well as a team. We gave away a few sessions and it contributed to our defeat. We had them on the rope twice and should have beaten them. But I think that there are positives to be taken from that tour,” he said, adding: “I am hoping to work on my averages and bat a bit longer for next season, which I think lacked in my game the last time out.”

Masakadza, who was introduced to cricket at Chipembere Primary School in Highfield, left local cricket to go to university soon after announcing his arrival on the international scene with a bang, with the century against the Windies.

“I lost a bit of cricket time when I was at university. Obviously I could have gained more experience if I had stayed but I do not regret that. I have always wanted to go to university and wanted to have something to fall back on,” he said.

Like every one in local cricket, Masakadza is excited about the forthcoming series with New Zealand.

“I reckon with the other guys back, we will have a better season. It is always nice to play at home, knowing how the conditions and how the wicket play. Training is going on very well, and the younger guys look a lot fitter and stronger now,” he added.

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