While all the major cities have benefitted immensely from cricket development initiatives over the years, Gweru has remained the pariah state on the cricket front.
By Munyaradzi Madzokere
With Kwekwe taking the lead in the Midlands province and producing star players in the form of Michael Chinouya, Rememberance Nyathi and Bothwell Chapungu as well as Innocent Chikuya to name but a few, cricket has remained obscure in the Midlands capital.
However, the new Midlands Cricket Association (MCA) board is set to establish the first ever cricket High Performance Centre in Gweru in a bid to stir the growth of the sport in the city and the province as a whole in the next four years.
Standardsport caught up with MCA chairman Charles Office, who revealed the association’s strategic plan which includes setting up a high performance centre in Gweru.
“It is going to be the first ever such initiative in Gweru. It will coincide with growth in both schools and club cricket. The centre will focus on refining skills and further strengthen our select teams. Much of the development will occur within the schools set up while the centre is designed to improve performance of top players in each age group up to senior women’s and men’s teams,” Office said.
Kwekwe already has a high performance centre at Mbizo Cricket Ground and the facility is undergoing a major facelift through a partnership with Australian High Commission and Bokomo Lays that was brokered by Midwest Rhinos CEO Kenyon Zierhl.
Office admitted that cricket lagged behind in the Midlands capital as well as other provincial towns, a situation his board was keen to deal with.
“Gweru has always lagged behind, which is also true of the other Midlands towns. It is imperative for this administration to take the game to the major towns around the provinces. In the short term we look forward to engaging more schools in Gweru with the focus being on primary schools, at the same time we will continue intensifying the high performance programmes in Kwekwe where the game has flourished,” he said.
He added, “We are hoping to engage quite a number of schools predominantly in the high density areas of Mkoba, Senga and Mambo. We also hope to work with some former Group A schools that had ceased playing cricket over the years. Various initiatives are in place to ensure that it will be a worthwhile venture for the schools that take up cricket.”
Sadly the only cricket facility at Gweru Sports Club which enabled the game to be played remotely on a social level in the late 90s into the new millennium now lies in neglect.
“Ideally, our high performance centre should be at Gweru Sports Club and we are in discussions with the clubs’ executive to try and work out the modalities of revamping the cricket facilities there. It’s the ideal location accessible to virtually everyone in the city.
“In the long run, we look forward to setting up facilities somewhere in Mkoba. We need to engage the city fathers to identify a suitable piece of land. And once we have the right resources we take up the project,” he said.
Office said they were engaging corporates and individuals within and outside the province to boost funding for the various programmes that they had earmarked for the next four years.
Also enshrined in the association’s 10-point strategic plan titled Short of a Length are declarations that highlight the need to improve the profile and competitiveness of club cricket, increasing participation and competitiveness in women cricket as well as improving financial viability and accountability.
Office gave an insight on the current state of club cricket in the Midlands Province and the direction they wanted club cricket to go in the future.
“We have four teams in our domestic cricket league. The teams are Gweru, Kwekwe, Redcliff and Queens. At the moment we currently run the A section of the league. However, with the various development programmes in place, we look forward to introducing the B section in 2018,” he said.
“We are looking forward to some tournaments for the club league commencing this year which will be an integral part of our domestic cricket programme. By 2019, we look forward to having an active women’s league as we move to promote women’s cricket at club level. We will continue to promote new clubs but our emphasis now is on improving the quality of the game within the existing structures to ensure that our game is of the highest quality.”
The MCA is responsible for identifying and refining talent that should feed into the Midwest Rhinos franchise but over the years very few players from the province have made it into the franchise team with the franchise opting to give contracts to players from other areas.