ANDY Flower – the Zimbabwe cricket legend and current England coach – used to give journalists good quotes in his splendid playing career.
“Only when I looked at the names of some of the guys nominated did I say to myself ‘what great company for a little Zimbabwean to be in’”, Flower told South Africa’s Sports Illustrated magazine on being named International Cricketer of the Year for 2002.
Fast forward seven years and these same words could easily be attributed to another “little” Zimbabwean – Charles Coventry.
The place was Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo. The date: August 16, and the event, the fourth One-Day International match between Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.
To the cricket world, it would appear pretty unthinkable that – despite a reputation of unorthodox attacking batting – a notoriously laidback chap from Zimbabwe who bats wearing glasses would dare threaten the world’s highest individual ODI score in history. Yet, in fact, he simply could have smashed that record at the end, and even go on to become the first man in history to score a double century in ODI cricket.
At the end, 194 not out, to equal the highest ODI score in history set by Pakistan’s Saeed Anwar against India in 1997, was still an awesome achievement.
You would expert such a mammoth score to be challenged by an Englishman, Aussie, Indian or Pakistani, and coming as it did from a player from Zimbabwe made it much more special.
Take a moment to consider that on his way to equal the record set by Anwar, a stylish batsman of his era capable of dismantling even the best bowling attacks, Coventry had surpassed the second highest score in history set when he was a year old, by non other than the great West Indian Sir Viv Richards.
Now, the top 10 looks like this: 1.Charles Coventry (Zimbabwe, 194*) 2. Saeed Anwar (Pakistan, 194) 3. Viv Richards (West Indies) 4. Sanath Jayasuriya (Sri Lanka) 5. Gary Kirsten (South Africa) 6. Sachin Tendulkar (India) 7. Mahendra Singh Dhoni (India), 8. Saurav Ganguly (India) 9. Matthew Hayden (Australia) 10. Viv Richards (West Indies).
This is really great company for Coventry.
The 26-year-old occasional wicketkeeper was born in Kwekwe in 1983 and raised in Bulawayo. His father – Charles “Chuck” Kevin Coventry Snr – was a leading Zimbabwean first-class umpire.
Coventry Snr introduced his son to cricket from a young age, in the back garden of their Bulawayo home and in the nets at the Bulawayo Athletic Club. Chuck gave Chopper – as his son in known in cricket circles- a strong grounding in technique and attitude.
As a youngster Coventry attended Whitestone Junior School in the city before proceeding to Christian Brothers College for his secondary education.
In Form One at CBC, Coventry started playing club cricket for the BAC, starting off in the Third XI but progressing quickly into the Firsts.
While still at CBC, he would become the youngest man, aged 15, to make his Zimbabwe first-class debut when he played for Matabeleland against Mashonaland.
He represented Zimbabwe in the 2001 ICC Under 19 World Cup in New Zealand. From 2002 he played first-class cricket for both the CFX Academy and Matabeleland.
He made his ODI debut against England in Bristol in 2003, then the first of his two Test appearances against India in 2005 in Bulawayo.
In 2006 Chopper was sent back home from a West Indies tour by coach Kevin Curran for disciplinary problems. Coventry later said he would never play for Zimbabwe again as long as Curran was in charge.
Media reports suggested Coventry was one of national team players loyal to sacked West Indian coach Phil Simmons.
He went to play club cricket in England and wasn’t part of the Zimbabwe team for three years.
Coventry returned in the last domestic season, before completing his international comeback in the Bangladesh series.
“It’s a great feeling,” Coventry said on his record. “It would have been nice if we had won, but full credit to Bangladesh, they played really well. I wasn’t really thinking much of that (record).Â I was only trying to get much of the strike and do well for the team.”