PLAYERS and coaches have come and gone, but Amato Machikicho (AM), the Zimbabwe cricket team psychio, has remained.
He tells Enock Muchinjo (EM) about his job and life on the road.
EM: How did you first get into sports medicine?
AM: My first job after qualifying from the University of Zimbabwe in 1991 was at Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo. While there I started working with Highlanders Football Club and Zimbabwe Saints. It was more out of the thrill of getting into the games for free and sitting on the team bench. It was there that I started getting the thrill of sports medicine.
I was appointed team physio for Zimbabwe during the 1995 All Africa Games which we hosted.
When I moved back to Harare I got into athletics, which was more convenient for me than football. The main attraction was touring Australia with a group of local athletes in 1995. Then in 1996 I went to the United States of America with Team Zimbabwe for the Atlanta Olympic Games as a team physio. That was a crowning moment for me, to go there and meet elite athletes from different parts of the world, and also meet top sports medicine practitioners and learn from them the latest methods and techniques of the trade.
EM: Which countries have you been to?
AM: I have been to all nine Test-cricket playing nations (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, West Indies). Then I have also been to Kenya, Namibia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Ireland, then countries such as Thailand and others on transit.
Before I joined cricket there was of course America for the 1996 Olympics. I also went to Malaysia with the Zimbabwe team for the Commonwealth Games in 1998.
EM: Which is the most interesting place you have been too?
AM: It’s quite difficult to single out any place. But Kingston in Jamaica stands out because of its rich history and culture of Rastafarianism, reggae music and the people’s “No Problem Man!” approach to life!
There is also India because of the country’s passion for cricket. I have never been to a place where the passion for the game is that deep-rooted. It’s very interesting how the average guy understands the game, it’s like anyone can coach the Indian national team.
EM: Have you experienced any culture shock?
I don’t know if you can call it culture shock, but there have been incidences of that sort. There is Bangladesh, which is different in that it is far-removed from any place I know in terms of the socio-economic situation.
You can see that the people don’t have much, but they don’t feel sorry for themselves. There is serious overpopulation, the infrastructure on face value looks like nothing works.
The lack of any semblance of order leaves you wondering. The orderliness you are used to is suddenly not there. Even when you are driving, people form their own lanes. Imagine here if people do that how many accidents we would have.
Then in Singapore, they have a fine for just about any little offence; smoking, bubblegums, litter and other things. It’s unbelievable how steadfast they are. When you are there you don’t want to have things in your hands lest you drop them and get fined. That was quite a contrast to Bangladesh.
EM: How do you handle being away from home?
AM: It’s quite a hard one. Obviously it’s a big sacrifice for my wife, kids and me. The hard fact is it’s my job. But it has its benefits. My wife, eldest son and daughter have seen the world by touring with us to England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka when families used to come along at some stage on long tours. Also, when we tour we shop around for presents to bring home. It doesn’t make up, but it helps. Then when you are home you always try to set aside quality time with the family.
EM: As a long-serving member of the Zimbabwe cricket team technical staff, which player attributes do you find most remarkable?
AM: People like Andy Flower for his wonderful work ethics. When it was business it was business. Paul Strang also comes to mind in terms of hard work. And also Dave Houghton when he was a player.
We also had pranksters such as Neil Johnson, Murray Goodwin and Heath Streak who always came up with things to spice the team with.
EM: In terms of team environment how different is it in the current side with the old guard?
AM: The current guys come from different generations, but are of the same age, so they don’t have any figureheads in the side. They are guys who grew up at the same time unlike in the past where we used to have a lot of seniority in the side with the younger guys having to load the bags at airports and stuff like that.
They do not have adult after-hours activities. Only a handful drink, unlike the old-school where we used to get a crate or two in the changing room after a game and they would still order some more. These guys like to go out on social interaction after matches and during rest days. A few are happy to go and get DVDs, shop, watch pictures or listen to music.
EM: What’s the most horrifying injury you have had to deal with?
AM: I remember Murray Goodwin’s injury at Sabina Park in Jamaica fielding very close to the batsmen. Ridley Jacobs swung at a shortish ball which knocked him out. He had no feeling from shoulder going down after the blow. And because it was a head injury I feared for the worse. I had to get a specialist, and fortunately his sensation came back.
Also Heath Streak once tore a ligament in his spine while jumping for a high ball. He went down in a heap. The neurologist said afterwards he had never seen anything like that because that ligament is never injured in any sport.
What lessons have you drawn from your job and travel?
Very valuable lessons like in any other job. Experience is the best teacher. It enriches you as a person. The world is made up of different people, and you can only benefit as a person from the contacts on the road. It creates good relationships. I feel privileged and grateful for the opportunities I have had.
Born: September 30, 1969, Bikita, Masvingo.
Schools: Chadya Primary (Bikita), Bondolfi Mission (Primary), Gokomere High (Form 1 to 4), Mutare Boys High (A Level).
Professional qualification: Bachelor of Science, Physiotherapy (Honours Degree): University of Zimbabwe (1988-1991).
Previous jobs: Mpilo Hospital, Bulawayo,1992; Marlene Brand Physiotherapy Clinic (Harare).
Family: Wife Bertha, son Tatanga (14), daughter Tanaka (9), son Tinotenda (4).