After 16 years representing Zimbabwe on the international cricket scene, Elton Chigumbura has managed to turn himself into an icon of the game.
BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
But many will argue that the Highfield-bred former captain of the country failed to live up to his early promise, yet he remains one of the most loved cricket players to don the Zimbabwe colours.
His swansong was also far from auspicious, dismissed for a mere two runs by Usman Qadir in the third and final T20i against Pakistan in Rawalpindi last Tuesday.
Yet Pakistan gave him a guard of honour, as did his Zimbabwe teammates while the whole cricket community celebrated the man, who rose from humble beginnings to cricket stardom.
And for the player also known as Mhizha, cricket was his ticket out of poverty.
Cricket meant so much to him and he revealed it in his farewell message.
“Lastly, to cricket, you have been a game-changer to my life from where I started to where I am today. A ticket out of poverty!! Goodbye…,” he signed off in his farewell message on his social media handles.
Indeed cricket snatched Chigumbura and his peers at the turn of the century from the poverty that stalks the ghettos in the country.
In a fine career that took him not only from the ghetto to some of the affluent suburbs, but around the globe, Chigumbura played a combined 284 matches for Zimbabwe, scoring 5 802 runs, taking 138 wickets in the process.
He also represented the country at the ICC World Cup as well as five T20 World Cups.
“This has been the hardest decision to make. At 34 I thought I could represent the country for two more years, but after facing several injuries I felt I had to make this difficult decision,” Chigumbura said.
“I call myself lucky because I am one of the guys, who have played for Zim for a long time and I have enjoyed every moment, including leading my team to the World Cup. It has been an honour to represent my country.
“I am happy I have made this decision and most of it was because of injuries. I had surgery last year and before I became a full-time batsman, I developed a problem with my back. So I thought this was a chance to give the younger players a couple of years before the World Cup in which they could learn about [the] international [stage].
“I am also looking at the composition of the team and I think we have many players, who can play at number seven. I knew it was going to be difficult to have more chances and it is possible that I am also blocking young players who could play in the team going forward,” he said.
A big hitter of the ball during his career, Chigumbura only managed two one-day international (ODI) centuries during his entire cricket career.
He was also a top seam bowler at the beginning of his international career and boasts of 101 ODI wickets as well as 21 and 16 in Tests and T20Is respectively.
In short, Chigumbura is one of the best all-rounders to play international cricket.
He picks his best cricket moments.
“My best highlights are the games that we have won against Australia first at the World Cup and then in Harare. I also relish my first international 100 which I got the last time I was in Pakistan,” he revealed.
While he says he has no regrets, Chigumbura had one wish.
“When we started on the international career, we started as a bunch of Under-19 players with no older players around. It was tough for us, but by keeping believing in ourselves and working we ended up gaining that experience. If we had senior players, we could have developed much faster in our careers,” he said.
But what’s next for the 34-year-old former Zimbabwe captain?
“I want to give back to the game. I am still not sure how, but I will definitely give back maybe by helping the upcoming players who will take our country forward. I will be part of Takashinga so you might see me playing one or two games,” Chigumbura said.