BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
AT 35, former Zimbabwe cricket player Stuart Matsikenyeri could have still been actively involved in the game as a player, but is already enjoying success as a coach, having won back-to-back domestic Pro50 Championship titles over the last two seasons.
Matsikenyeri won the competition in his debut season as coach of the Rising Stars Cricket Academy last year before making it two titles on the trot with Harare-based cricket franchise Eagles a week ago.
And the man who represented Zimbabwe in 113 one-day internationals (ODIs) between 2002 and 2015 scoring 2 224 runs, including 13 half centuries, credits his family for the auspicious start to his coaching career.
Matsikenyeri is married to Miss Zimbabwe 2004 winner and former television personality Oslie Muringai and the couple is blessed with two children Jayden (12), a budding cricketer, and eightyear-old daughter Ceille.
“I think my family has been really big for me in the last four years I have been coaching. I could never be where I am had they not been a supportive family, for example, being able to pack up with me and go to Johannesburg just to help start my coaching career four years ago,” Matsikenyeri told The Sports Hub.
After a successful playing career since making his international debut in an ODI against Pakistan in 2002, Matsikenyeri, who was captain of Eagles at the time, followed his close friend Tatenda Taibu into premature retirement at the age of 30.
He left Zimbabwe for Johannesburg, where he played league cricket and coached at a prestigious high school, and surprised many when he returned to Zimbabwe to fight for a place at the 2015 World Cup.
His experience counted in his favour when he was included in the Zimbabwe squad for that tournament and he looked set to revive his career before retiring again after the global showpiece to go back into coaching in South Africa.
“They understood that my idea was to go back to the basics of cricket. I knew I wanted to come back into cricket and coach, but I didn’t want to go straight away into first-class cricket. I felt I had to do my time at grassroots and them being able to stick with me going back to coach the under-13s and seeing me all the way up is something I am thankful for,” he added.
In South Africa, Matsikenyeri was entrusted with the Under-13 at St John’s College four years ago before he took up a representative side, which covered Johannesburg North East Area.
And later he coached the St John’s College first team before returning home in 2017 to coach an immensely talented Rising Stars Academy team ahead of the Logan Cup for his taste of first-class cricket coaching.
Matsikenyeri is also glad that his wife Oslie has grown to know and love the game of cricket over the years.
“Unlike what most people think, Oslie was not modelling when I met her. But we have been together for a really long time and when we dated I was playing cricket, but I was not close to making big sides.
“She has always been there and to this stage she understands the ins and outs of the game and the pressure that comes with it, so I am happy that I can have a real cricket conversation with her and not have any problems. But maybe my son Jaden knows a little bit more than all of us now,” he chuckled.
Eagles beat Tuskers by two wickets at Harare Sports Club last weekend to hand Matsikenyeri his second domestic accolade in successive years.
And he is a thrilled man.
“That’s what we play for as players, coach or administrators. Winning championships is something that you hunger for and doing it again was a real thrill for me,” Matsikenyeri said.
Interestingly, while Matsikenyeri is winning championships as a coach, his peers such as Zimbabwe captain Hamilton Masakadza and Elton Chigumbura are still actively playing.
Chigumbura is part of the Eagles side under Matsikenyeri.
“It’s good to start my coaching career when those guys are still around. I think they have done a wonderful job, especially with the youngsters that have come in and where I can’t teach, these guys have been brilliant.
“A coach’s influence only goes as far as before the first ball is bowled, thus the seniors out there do a lot of teaching so I really appreciate their work in the field,” he said.
He also spoke of his coaching dreams.
“My career is still young at this level. I spent four years coaching in South Africa, I have now come back at a higher level. The short-term dream is to win the ongoing domestic T20 Cup, but I just want to grow and achieve as much as I can along the way,” he said.
A product of the famed Zimbabwe Cricket development programme, which churned out the majority of the country’s black cricketers, Matsikenyeri learned his cricket in Highfield, representing Zimbabwe at U-16 and U-19 levels before graduating to the national team.