EASTBOURNE — At 7.30am on any given matchday during the summer term, Tawanda Muyeye won’t be alongside his Eastbourne College peers at breakfast.
Neither will he still be lying in bed back in Gonville, his boarding house. Instead, he will be in the gym doing yoga, stretching ahead of the afternoon’s fixture. And Muyeye considers this a lie-in.
You would be forgiven for thinking that the life of a school cricketer is worlds away from the professional game. Naturally, cricket is only part of the school experience, sharing the spotlight with academic endeavours and all the other sports and activities on offer.
But for Muyeye, who was named in this year’s Wisden Almanack as the Wisden Schools Cricketer of the Year, cricket is everything. It is the reason he came to Eastbourne aged 16, it is the reason he trains throughout the winter, it is the reason he is up for these early morning sessions.
It is followed by a team breakfast, then a warm-up, featuring the customary game of football.
“I’m not great at football, but I have been known to bring out my inner Wayne Rooney sometimes!” Muyeye tells The Cricketer.
Now 18, he is in his final year at the college and can already look back on his school career with immense satisfaction. In the summer of 2019, when in Year 12, Muyeye scored 1,112 runs — a record for the 150-year-old school — and hit 56 sixes, another record.
And against Brighton College last May, Muyeye scored his second school double-century — off only 135 balls.
No other player has ever hit more than one double hundred for the school and Eastbourne’s total of 402 for four off 50 overs was their highest ever total. The young Zimbabwean is shattering more than a century of records almost single-handedly.
“I was so happy with how the summer went because I had worked hard the previous winter,” he reflects. “I had a pretty good season the year before, scoring 900 runs averaging around 50, but there were still parts of my game that I wasn’t happy about.”
Eastbourne’s coaching staff is headed by former Kent spinner Rob Ferley, who is accompanied by one-time England captain James Tredwell and ex-Yorkshire wicketkeeper Andy Hodd: Three men who know the county circuit inside out and understand what is required to break into the professional game. And for them, cricket is a year-round job.
“Last winter I was in the nets every single day, morning and night,” Muyeye adds. “It was so good to work with Ferley and Tredwell. I remember watching Tredwell on TV; the best thing about him is that he backs our abilities, he will always assure me that I am good enough.
“He gives so much feedback and guides us, which is amazing to hear from someone who has played at the very top level of the game. He knows exactly what it takes to be a successful cricketer.”
Muyeye’s journey to the south coast began in the very different surroundings of Zimbabwe.
“I grew up on a farm and my brother got me into cricket because he always made me throw balls at him. I played for my provincial team and captained Zimbabwe at U13 and U16 level, but I have always wanted to play county cricket.
“A family friend was at Eastbourne so I wrote to them and luckily they gave me a scholarship.”
Since arriving in England, he has never looked back. He was immediately drafted into the school first team, playing with boys two years his senior and has since been part of the Sussex set-up.
But the batsman, who also bowls off-spin, is realistic about his future and what it might hold. “Of course, I want to become a professional cricketer, but you can’t do that forever and my parents have always said that I need a back-up,” he says.
“I want to go to Loughborough University and get a degree. Hopefully I can play lots of cricket while I’m there. but after that we’ll see.”
While Muyeye is keeping his options open, that doesn’t stop him from eyeing up his main ambition.
“I want to play for England.” And like a true modern cricketer, he adds: “But I also want to play in the IPL and the Big Bash.”
*This interview first appeared in the The Cricketer Schools Guide 2020