There is always that purple patch, the super spell where one team makes one trophy their own. In NBA Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors quickly come to mind. Arsenal are FA Cup kings, Bayern Munich rule the Bundesliga and Mountaineers “own” the Logan Cup, the First Class cricket competition in the Zimbabwe league.
For three consecutive seasons Mountaineers have been crowned Logan Cup champions, who knows what could have been if the 2019/20 season wasn’t truncated due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In The Oval this week, Brighton Zhawi engages Mountaineers coach, Shepherd Makunura, who is humble in praise as he attributes team effort in the Mountaineers’ success story.
Whereas some call him “Big Man” or “Sheppie”, I call him “Mr Logan”, and here speaks of his dream to coach the Chevrons and a few coaches to watch in the near future. Read on . . .
BZ: Calling you “Mr Logan”, I don’t see anything wrong on that . . ?
SM: No problem, guess I have earned it.
BZ: When the 2019/20 season was declared null and void, Mountaineers was trailing Eagles by five points with a game in hand. Who knows it could have been a fourth title in a row?
SM: Actually we believed we would make it four in a row, only four points from Eagles. And, unfortunately, the season was affected by the pandemic.
BZ: Is it because you make the Logan Cup a top priority at the onset of any season, more of a must-win competition?
SM: We always set our sights on winning at least two trophies out of the three that are on offer and I guess my players love the purest form of the game.
BZ: Winning three in a row is legendary stuff. How did it happen? Let’s start from the first of the three?
SM: We have always proved to be slow starters in competitions, kind of slow out of the blocks, but we seem to get into gear from there on and just take things from there. I put most of it to team work and a never-say-die attitude that has been a part of Mountaineers for the past four-or-so seasons.
BZ: Would you say being “slow starters” affect your white ball cricket form? You have faltered in some finals in recent seasons?
SM: I wouldn’t really say that, we just seem to play better red ball cricket and have faltered at crucial stages in a few white ball matches.
BZ: If you were to move to another team, what winning formula would you employ as a coach? It is no coincidence you have been successful with Mountaineers, there is obviously a style that you identify with as Shepherd Makunura, the coach.
SM: I think it is important for a team to gel if they want to be successful, there is no ‘I’ in team and every player has to work hard towards the success of the team. T. E. A. M stands for Together Each Achieves More.
BZ: I would like to believe your success at franchise coaching level has earned you the elevation to be part of the national selection panel. How has been the new post?
SM: It’s always a great pleasure serving your country and am also glad to note that my contribution at franchise level has been recognised. Selection is never easy as you can never please everyone but so far it has been good, hope I will be able to add value and help in shaping the future of Zimbabwe Cricket.
BZ: For over 15 years you have been involved with the game at coaching level, even guiding the U-19s team at two World Cups, also coaching the Zimbabwe A, who knows what’s next?
SM: Indeed, I have been around the block for a while now and you have certainly not heard the last of me, my dream is to one day coach the national team.
BZ: Lately we were seeing you and other high-profile Takashinga coaches, coming to club games, it hadn’t been happening for some time. Why now?
SM: I think it’s actually a realisation that there is a lot of talent within our club structures and it needs to be harnessed and I, and many other coaches, have a big role to play in harnessing that talent and make sure that Zimbabwe Cricket has a lot of players coming through the pipelines.
BZ: Speaking of pipelines you, Timmy and Tindo Maruma, Roy Kaia and Tino Mutombodzi, are some of the cricket names from Chengu Primary School in Highfield. Is the school still producing talent and as old boys, have you contributed towards the cricket in any way?
SM: It still produces the odd player here and there but progress has been hampered by the lack of enough coaches in the area. I had a chat with Emmanuel Dube some time back who is also a product of Chengu and we will be looking at various ways of helping out in the not-too-distant future.
BZ: Takashinga is a club cricket powerhouse, but am sure there are some teams that give you headaches? And also what do you make of the standard of club cricket currently?
SM: Obviously the games against Rainbow are always good battles so is Old Hararians, when at full strength and Gladiators, from Chitungwiza, are also an exciting upcoming side.
I think our club cricket has a lot of room for improvement, we need to get our national team players more involved in club cricket so they can help nurture the next set of franchise players.
BZ: Are there any upcoming good local coaches you can name?
SM: A few guys come to mind, the likes of Eric Chauluka, Njabulo Ncube, Blessing Mafuva, Mbekezele Mabuza.
BZ: What got you into coaching?
SM: I guess after playing a few first class games for Mashonaland and a few B league games for Manicaland where I was more or less a player-coach, I discovered my passion for coaching and have never looked back from there.
BZ: And your wife Sinikiwe is a coach in the national women’s team set-up. A house of coaches?
SM: Yes, she is currently the Lady Chevrons Assistant Coach, and I guess that makes it a house of coaches, indeed.
BZ: I wonder if you guys watch cricket for entertainment or a coach is always a coach?
SM: Funny enough she doesn’t watch a lot of cricket at home, I am the one who watches a lot at home.
BZ: What’s more important as a domestic coach, winning titles or nurturing more players in the national team(s)?
SM: It is a bit of a tough one really, it is important to nurture talent for national teams, but also gratification comes from winning silverware. In the world of sport, coaching is not an easy job and one’s success is often associated with silverware.
BZ: Thank you for your time. All the best in your coaching journey . . . who knows maybe the next interview I will be chatting to Zimbabwe national team coach, Shepherd Makunura.
SM: Thanks for having me.