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Zhuwao driven by unfinished business

EXPLOSIVE Zimbabwe batsman Cephas Zhuwao needed just one platform — the ICC World Cup Qualifier the country hosted in February and March — to charm West Indies superstar Chris Gayle, yet for 10 years Zimbabwe Cricket [ZC] frowned at his batting qualities.

BY DANIEL NHAKANISO

But somehow on the eve of the qualifiers, Zhuwao gatecrashed into the Zimbabwe team albeit after enduring a decade of being overlooked since he made his debut in 2008.

The 33-year-old top order batter — who has been loyal to his overly aggressive style of play over the years — is praying he won’t endure another long wait before having a second dance with the Chevrons.

Simply put, Zhuwao has some unfinished business in national colours.

“If I am given an opportunity again, I want to prove that I still have a lot to offer to the national team,” Zhuwao told the Sports Hub in an interview last week.

“If we are talking about the statistics in domestic cricket, I believe I’m up there in terms of runs, but obviously the final decision is up to the selectors. But honestly I believe I deserve another chance to represent my country. I will just continue to work hard. my goal is to make sure we qualify for another global tournament and obviously after missing out on next year’s World Cup, the next target is to qualify for the 2020 World Twenty20.”

Zhuwao earned his first cap for Zimbabwe against Ireland in 2008 during a triangular series in Kenya, scoring just 16 runs on his debut in what many thought would be the beginning of a successful international career.

The left-handed batsman would sadly go on to endure 10 years of waiting for his next call-up which eventually came this year.

Having vindicated his call-up with a couple of solid performances in four of Zimbabwe’s opening matches during the ICC World Cup qualifier, Zhuwao was an unlucky omission from the playing XI for the high-stakes encounter against minnows UAE.

The hosts went on to suffer a heartbreaking loss to UAE in front of a sellout home crowd in a match that saw them miss out on next year’s global showpiece to be held in England and Wales.

Zhuwao, who has been playing club cricket in Scotland, says he was gutted by the omission from the decider.

“Obviously, I was disappointed not to play in the decisive qualifier. I’m a strong believer in God and my faith and I believe it was not meant to be my game because if it was meant to be, I was going to score runs and hopefully change the complexion of the game, but it was just not meant to be,” he said.

“At the end of the day, we play as a team and when we win or lose we do it as a team and, hopefully, we will bounce back stronger.”

Zhuwao reckons he is a better player now.

“Even though we did not achieve what we had set out to accomplish, I feel I learnt a lot by being part of the team during the World Cup qualifiers. I always tell myself that in every game of cricket that I play I need to learn something. Obviously, we are all not happy that we didn’t qualify, but it’s something that I think will make us even stronger because I know each player wants to make sure that we bounce back from this disappointment stronger.”

Zhuwao started his career in the high-density suburb of Glen View, Harare, and played for a local club, Glenshire, that gave him an opportunity to become a franchise player with Mashonaland Eagles, then called Northerns.

He credits former ZC development coach Nicholas Munyurwa and former Zimbabwe coach Stephen Mangongo for his early development in schools and domestic first-class cricket respectively.

From there it was the national team’s developmental sides, beginning with the Zimbabwe XI, before graduating into the Zimbabwe A and later the Zimbabwe national team.
During those years, Zhuwao built a reputation as a big hitter of the ball, as an aggressive batsman.

The approach did not bring him a lot of success, but he stuck with it.

Zhuwao’s aggressive batting technique has earned him plaudits and critics in equal measure, but the Glen View-born cricketer is not about to compromise his style just yet.

“One thing that I’ve noticed about my style of batting is that there are some who appreciate it and others who are critical of it,” Zhuwao says.

“It’s not something new or unique to cricket, it’s in almost every sport. If you play your game and score runs and achieve the results like what I have been doing in domestic cricket, everyone is going to be full of praises. but when it doesn’t work out it’s obviously disappointing but it doesn’t mean that I’m suddenly a bad player.

“That’s my own type of playing and batting. I am aggressive. You must stick to your game. If you do your processes right, everything just pays up,” he says.

Zhuwao said he received encouragement from West Indies opener Gayle, who advised him to stick to his style. Gayle thrives on the same style of batting.

“Gayle told me that he admired the way I bat. He said that I should stick to the style and not fear to go out cheaply. He told me that with that style there was always a chance of making a low score, but when it works out, it’s very rewarding. He gave me a brand new bat and a pair of gloves.”

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