ONE of the most sought after cricket coaches in the world today is Trevor Penney, who has worked as the fielding coach and assistant coach of India and Sri Lanka respectively.
Another feather was added to Penney’s cap at the end of last year when the West Indies appointed him as their new assistant coach for the shorter formats of the game.
As a player and coach, Penney has worked at some of the world’s most hallowed cricket venues such as Eden Gardens, which they call the Mecca of Indian cricket, and England’s Edgbaston, which is spoken of in nearly the same vein as the famous Lord’s — both located in the country that invented the sport many years ago.
Yet two years ago when I stood with the Worcestershire legend for an interview on the boundary of the main cricket field of Old Hararians Sports Club — simple, humble settings that are worlds apart from places like Eden Gardens and Edgbaston – Penney spoke about how delighted he was to be back home, at a club he honed the skills that would see him turn out to be one of the best fielders in the history of cricket.
“OH is a marvellous place, mate,” Penney said to me. “A great club.”It was a trip down memory lane as 51-year-old Zimbabwean Penney, a well respected gentleman of world cricket, took time to field questions as we followed the progress of Netherlands, who he had travelled with here as coaching consultant for the 2018 Cricket World Cup qualification tournament hosted by Zimbabwe.
He told me how pleased he was to meet some old acquaintances and teammates at OH, and those that he didn’t see he had enquired about their wellbeing. One such figure he made a point of seeing was a charming old lady by the name of Jean Milner, or simply Aunty Jean — a massive cricket fan, keeper of scoresheets and motherly soul to different generations of players of all races at OH for many years.
“She is a legend of the club,” Penney said. A compassionate man like Penney, he was always going to remember the dearly departed and a sombre part of our chat was his reminiscences of his ex-OH teammate and namesake Trevor Madondo, who died young at the age of 24 in 2001.
Batsman Madondo was one of the best young talents Penney had ever seen. A maverick on and off the field nonetheless, death robbed the country, Penney believed, of a cricketer who would have lived to become one of the greatest sportsmen ever to come from Zimbabwe.
Incidentally, Madondo isn’t the only ex-OH sports star to die in more recent times — all relatively young and all in tragic circumstances.A year before Madondo succumbed to cerebral malaria at Parirenyatwa Hospital, the nation had plunged into mourning after the demise of a prodigious rugby talent called Richard Tsimba, a stand-out performer for Zimbabwe at the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 who was posthumously inducted by the global governing body of the sport into its hall of fame.
Tsimba, the first black person to play international rugby for Zimbabwe, was killed in a car crash in Harare at the age of 34.In 2009, affable 51-year-old OH cricket stalwart Mohammad Abid Khan Hamid, known in short as Abi Hamid, complained of abdominal pains while playing a game for the club’s second team and was later pronounced dead that evening after being hospitalised.
Born in Chipinge soon after his parents moved to this country from Pakistan, Hamid had become the glue that bonded everyone together at the club during very difficult times in the game and in the country.
Today, that mantle is held by Hamid’s nephew and good friend of many, Saad Khan, who he brought over from their native Pakistan to work in the family business.
Cricket-mad Saad is these days pretty much Mr Old Hararians cricket with all his hard-work and selfless efforts going into coaching, managing the team and academy as well as chairing the cricket section of the club. There are a lot more people deserving of special mention at Old Hararians across the different disciplines there, very good guys with an undying spirit of self-sacrifice and you only need to speak to people like Tich Makwanya — the long-serving rugby captain and ex-Zimbabwe fly-half — to get a full appreciation of what it really means to grow up in that OH culture, and give back.
It’s a place that oozes history — the home of Zimbabwe’s Olympics gold medal-winning captain, former Springbok rugby players and cricketers, a successful England and India cricket coach, quite a long list indeed.
This is the place, folks, whose land the city council of Harare now wants to partition for property development.
I would like to add my voice of support for those that have spoken out this week against this great threat posed to a symbolic place of veneration and centre of true sporting excellence: please keep your hands off OH!