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Masakadza reflects on 18-year cricket career

BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE

IT seems like yesterday when a fresh-faced boy by the name Hamilton Masakadza hoisted his bat and helmet triumphantly amid a standing ovation at Harare Sports Club.

The world at his feet, the young cricketer had just become the youngest batsman to score a century on debut at the age of 17 years and 352 days, against a formidable opposition such as West Indies.

Masakadza kissed the Zimbabwe bird emblem on his helmet as a show of allegiance and love for a country he was going to represent for many years to come.

That was in July 2001.

And last week the Zimbabwe cricket captain announced his retirement from all formats of international cricket soon after the Bangladesh T20i tri-series, which begins this week.

It’s been 18 years since Masakadza made his auspicious first appearance for the country and he has made many memories, good and bad, for the country.

Opinion is divided on whether Masakadza lived up to his early career potential and there is enough evidence to suggest that he is well and truly a legend of the local game.

“I guess I want to be remembered as someone who gave it all for the team and someone who always wore the badge with pride,” Masakadza said in pristine humility, untainted by his vast achievements on the cricket field.

Some of Masakadza’s achievements include becoming the first Zimbabwean to make two scores of 150 or more in ODIs following 156 and 178 totals against Kenya in October 2009.

The feat also made the player the first in the world to record such scores in the same series.

Alongside Sikandar Raza, Masakadza set the record for the highest ever opening partnership for Zimbabwe in ODIs — 224 against Afghanistan in Bulawayo in July — among numerous other
individual accomplishments.

And as he makes his international cricket swansong in the T20 series against Bangladesh and Afghanistan, Masakadza has played 38 Tests, with 2 223 runs, including five centuries, eight
fifties and taking 16 wickets.

In 50-over matches, the Zimbabwe captain has featured 209 times, scoring 5 658 runs made up of five hundreds and 34 half centuries, while in 62 T20s he managed 1 529 runs, including
10 fifties.

He looks back on his career

“Looking back, I don’t have many regrets, but the one thing that stands out is that I never really got the chance to play in as many World Cups as I would have wanted. I only played a
few 50-over World Cups and that really got to me a little bit. There were setbacks and I managed to come back from those and represented the country,” Masakadza said.

Curiously, Masakadza only made his ICC World Cup debut in Australia and New Zealand four years ago.

Masakadza also spoke of individual and team achievements close to his heart as he bows out of the international game.

“In recent years, our Test victory in Bangladesh where other teams were struggling and we went there and won that first test stands out. Also from a team point of view, the ODI series
win in Sri Lanka where we hadn’t won before also stands out quite a bit,” he revealed.

Zimbabwe recorded a famous 3-2 ODI away victory over Sri Lanka in 2017, the first on the island and the first away series win for the country since 2009. Masakadza emerged the man-
of-the-series.

“Personally, my test debut against West Indies had to be the highlight of my career. And obviously the Kenya series where I scored two of more than 150,” he added.

The former Churchill student leaves the game when the country is suspended from taking part in ICC events due to perceived government interference in the local game.

It is this censure that precipitated his retirement although he was already toying with the idea.

“I was sort of feeling that I was coming towards the end of my career and I wanted to at least try and play one more World Cup for the country, which would have been the T20 one. But
now that we are not involved, I just felt that I should retire and make way for the next guy coming through,” Masakadza said.

“For me, it’s not really the recent events that influenced my decision, but the fact that we are no longer part of the T20 World Cup I felt there was nothing to play for,” he added.

However, the Zimbabwe captain believes he still has a few more years playing local cricket for Mountaineers so as to pass his experience to the young generation.

“I have only retired from international cricket so I will be playing on the domestic scene. It would be good to pass on my knowledge to the young guys. When I started playing, I played
with the likes of Andy Flower and Grant Flower at Takashinga and I really learnt quite a lot from them, so it would be fair to give the younger generation a chance to learn from me
also.

“I also enjoy working with the young people. I will definitely love to give back to the game that has given me so much over a long period and you definitely haven’t seen the last of me
just yet,” he said

Masakadza was asked whether he would be interested in the Zimbabwe Cricket top job.

“I don’t see why not, maybe in 15 or 20 years,” he said with a chuckle.

Masakadza is one of the few black players who have had the privilege to play the game on the international stage alongside his siblings Shingi and Wellington.

This adds to his special memories from the game in the past 18 years.

“It was really a blessing for me to have my brothers playing. I started with Shingi and then Welly lately. It gave us more time to be together and we also have been playing together at
Mountaineers.

“On the funny side, my dad always says you must not travel together because if there is any mishap that would be too much of a loss for him. But it’s really been a blessing for me and
really been good for us to be in the same team

“And I remember in one of the test matches we were playing at home and we walked off the field with Shingi who was night-watchman. We wanted to see off the day and as we walked off and
I remember mum and dad sitting in the chairman’s enclosure, which was a really special moment in my career,” he said.

Masakadza also paid tribute to his wife Vimbai for her support during the latter part of his career.

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