Takashinga: Masters of perseverance

A WAVE of nostalgia swept through a community of Zimbabwean cricket following last week’s column, in which I shared the story of one of the country’s most underrated black cricketers of the 1990s to mid-2000s.

Sports Panorama with Enock Muchinjo

Buttressing a point that cricket in Zimbabwe needed more of its exiled players and technical personnel to return home, I wrote of South Africa-based Amos Maungwa, who had been plucked from a lowly life as a gardener in Durban, to run one of the city’s thriving cricket academies.

Maungwa’s life has been of struggle, hard work and dedication to a cause and this is aptly summed up in pictures sent to me by a friend in reaction to last week’s piece.

The two iconic images — captured during the construction of Takashinga Cricket Club’s ground and club-house in the late 1990s — show club members, who had to participate in the menial work, enjoying a light moment in-between the hours of toil.

For that is what it took for the dream to come true. That loyalty to the institution, personal sacrifice and vision, is what has made Takashinga what it is today — a force to reckon with and the Mecca of cricket development in this country.

In the first picture (picture 1), Amos Maungwa is third from left, holding a pick and smiling.

For Chitungwiza-raised Maungwa — a product of the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) development programme of the early 1990s — Takashinga offered an opportunity for first-team cricket, which he had not achieved at Old Hararians.

Maungwa had found himself at the dominantly white club Old Hararians in the mid-1990s, where he was nurtured by top players Dave Houghton and Trevor Penney, among the first senior white players to open up their eyes to the reality that the growth of the game was stifled, for as long as the selection pool was just a tiny minority of the country.
Township cricketers like Maungwa were as naturally talented as anybody, but as fate would have it, none of his generation would go on to represent their country.

That opportunity, though, would come to a younger generation — two of whom are in this picture with Maungwa.
The smiling young boy in the red t-shirt, holding the wheelbarrow, is Prosper Utseya, later to become the country’s captain.

He did not know it then — it was just a dream in its infancy — but Utseya would years later give us many wonderful memories, producing several unforgettable performances for Zimbabwe. At the peak of his career, he became an economical off-spinner of repute, good enough to trouble some of the world’s best batsmen.

He must have been around 15 when this picture was taken.

The other future Zimbabwe international in the first picture is furthest right, also with a wheelbarrow. That is Forster Mutizwa, a wicketkeeper-batsman later to develop into an attacking stroke-maker.

He last played international cricket in 2012, in a modest career with an average of 31.00 from 17 ODIs.

It is good to see him still involved in the game. Two months months ago I saw him at Alex Sports Club umpiring a second league game in the Vigne Cup.

Standing behind the younger members, in the white cap and white t-shirt, is club co-founder Givemore Makoni.
With his playing days almost behind him at that time, Makoni was passionately driving the Takashinga dream alongside close friend Steve Mangongo, among other development stalwarts of the game.

Makoni would go on to head Zimbabwe’s selection panel and was also the national team manager, among other roles — a very influential figure in the game.

He currently manages the national association’s development arm, a role that suits him perfectly given his background.
Looking in the direction of Makoni, in the all-white attire and blue cap, is his young brother Erick “Pilo” Chauluka.

Chauluka might not be as well-known as some of the good talent to come out of Takashinga, but here is a man who embodies the ethos of the club in full measure. He has been there from the beginning, as shown in this picture, and he is still there now.

Thirty-four-year-old Chauluka is currently resident manager-cum-coach for the training centre based at Takashinga, a home he has known since it was an eyesore of a place, heavily littered during construction, to what it is today, a beautiful lush green facility with a charming club-house.

Chauluka might not be as gifted as the more famous Takashinga protégées — Tatenda Taibu, Hamilton Masakadza, Elton Chigumbura, Vusi Sibanda — but he is a born leader and the job he is doing at Takashinga is a splendid one.
He has captained the club to countless honours, in addition to being skipper of the defunct first-class side Southern Rock.

In the second picture (picture 2), Chauluka’s brother Makoni features more prominently, noticeably skinnier those days. He is in the middle, barefoot, and holding a shovel. Furthest right, in the dark trousers and white shirt, is Keith Kulinga. I do not know what happened to this fellow. Not many would agree with me, but I felt he was a more than handful off-spinner.

Of quiet demeanour — a little timid you felt — somehow he was just a favourite of mine. On the left side, with the pick, is Robert Mafigo.

This man was not as gifted as a player, as keen as he was, but he coached at St John’s College and was also employed by the ZCU as a development coach. He lives in England now. And if you look closely in the picture, at the top, somebody is holding a container for the widely-consumed traditional beer, scud!

Signs of the times indeed, but Takashinga (we have persevered or we persevere), has indeed achieved dreams.