Representing one’s country is a privilege only a few enjoy. In Zimbabwe, 113 players have earned the Test Baggy Green. In ODIs, 142 players have played for Zimbabwe, while 61 have taken part in T20 internationals. Clearly, only a few are destined to play for their country and many are lost along the way. However, Dean Mazhawidza perfectly fits both categories: he was ‘destined’ to play for Zimbabwe and he found a new path along the way. Mazhawidza, a former Zimbabwe U-19 wicket-keeper, made his first class debut a week before his 18th birthday back in 2009.

The following year he was playing at the ICC Cricket U-19 World Cup in New Zealand. The late coach, Kevin Curran, saw great potential in him and often pushed him to the limits. But, as fate would have it, Dean would be somewhere else away from the cricket oval. Oftentimes, his name comes up in conversations amongst coaches and players.
“Where is Dean?” The Sunday Mail’s Brighton Zhawi tracked Mazhawidza to answer the “Where is Dean” question. In The Oval this week, we chat to Mazhawidza, a former Churchill star who says he is happy with his life as a founder and owner of Future Pathways Consultants.

BZ: Do you have any regrets regarding the path you decided to take? I know how much you loved playing cricket for Zimbabwe?
DM: Honestly, l do not have any regrets to where l am with my life. I am at a better place now; this is what l was destined to do by God. Yes, I loved playing cricket and when l was young l wanted to play for Zimbabwe Cricket. I guess being in sports does not mean you have to be on the cricket field. There are a lot of careers in sports and l am certain l am doing what is right in the sporting industry now.

BZ: When you made your first class debut for Northens, a week after your 18th birthday, how did you feel sharing the changing room with guys like Tatenda Taibu, Elton Chigumbura and Raymond Price?
DM: I cannot explain the feeling. These are the guys you always admire or see as role models at school, and sharing a changing room with them was a fantastic feeling, a dream come true indeed. I remember that day we played Tuskers at Alex (Sports Club) and I was hit on the arm by Tawanda Mupariwa. I was seating on the pot and he was caught and bowled by Creamer. Funny dismissal. I recall Taibu saying ‘welcome to first class cricket, young man.’ It was a cruel initiation and later on l was dismissed by Chris Mpofu – terrible, hey.

BZ: And then there was the U-19 Cricket World Cup in New Zealand in 2010, another great experience…
DM: It was a fantastic feeling, Brighton. The facilities, the hospitality, the quality of cricket and the competition is tense. You are playing against quality players who know what they are doing and you are tested from ball one. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. l remember some of the players that l played with and against are playing international cricket now. Memories of that World Cup in New Zealand will never fade away.

BZ: You then went to study at University of the Western Cape in South Africa. Was it for a fall-back plan after cricket or you had already quit pursuing professional cricket?
DM: I always wanted to play cricket; it was always my passion since l was a young man at Widdicombe Primary School to Churchill Boys High School. I was fortunate that my father, Weston Mazhawidza, played a very important role in my cricketing career. He was a mentor, manager and my adviser when it came to decision-making. After the World Cup, he advised me to pursue both cricket and education. He told me to finish my A’ level and play cricket after that, which was a good deal for me. He always asked me what I would do with my life if one day I break my leg, arm or picked up a serious injury. I then realised l had to finish my A’ levels. When l was done with my A levels, l was presented with an opportunity to go study and play cricket at the University of Western Cape by Nicolas Kock, who is an executive director of Sports Skills For Life Skills. This opportunity helped me to play quality club cricket and study as well, which was a bonus for me.

BZ: And then studies took over from cricket, if I may say…
DM: That is true, like l said earlier. Being in sport does not mean being on the field. There are a lot of careers in sports that people can venture into. It does not mean you have to be on the field. A lot of preparation, planning and organising happens off the field. The execution only takes place on the field. With time l realised my passion is on the preparation, planning and organising side.

BZ: So you are now a founder and owner of Future Pathways Consultants. What’s happening there?
DM: That is correct. FPC is a company driven to help youths across the world to achieve their career goals. Our purpose is helping students, athletes and individuals to reach career competency, maturity and assist them with bursary opportunities to study in South Africa and abroad.  We use various career exploration activities to identify youths career interests, subject choices, values, personalities and competencies. We are all about growing a competent society where every individual is responsible and accountable for their decisions, career choices and future.

BZ: What are some of the success stories you have experienced so far?
DM: Quite a few actually. I have worked with a Hellenic Football Club, Mark-Bryne High Performance School and with kids from Curro Centurity City, Reddam House Durbanville, Hertzlia High School, including a few students from UK and Zimbabwe.
FPC was officially established in 2019 and it will be a year in a few months.
We are in an education phase of raising career awareness to youths and parents. At times you find that parents in the black communities tend to decide on traditional career paths such as doctors and lawyers for their children … You find that a lot of these degrees will just hang on the walls without being used because the child wanted to be a mechanic, a hair dresser or something that makes them satisfied.

BZ: I guess Dion Mazhawidza (also a former Zimbabwe U-19 player) is blessed to have you as brother, consultant and a cricket person as well. What advice have you been giving him? Some fear he could be another lost talent?
DM: Yes, Dion is blessed. I have been telling him to follow what you like and recently he has been loving IT since he is studying a Bachelors in Information Systems. You see, with career development there are a lot of twists and turns. One day you want to do this, the next day you want to do that – it is an endless transition . . . that is why it is important to get advice, direction and guidance.

BZ: I understand you are now a family man. How is that?
DM: Yes, I have a one-year-old daughter, Hailey Ruva, by my wife Anita. It is a wonderful feeling although it comes with its challenges. l am enjoying it; it is worth it. I love my family. They support me all the time.

BZ: Are you still in touch with some of your Zim U-19 team-mates?
DM: Honestly, not really, although l talk to some of my mates when we see each other or on social media. Our circles and friends shifted when we both took a different direction after the World Cup.

BZ: Guys in your stream like Tino Mutombodzi, PJ Moor and Tendai Chatara have at least had a good run in the national team. A better feeling, isn’t it?

DM: Yes, that is correct, whenever l see them on television or live l always admire them because these are the guys who had exceptional talent during my time. I feel bad when l do not see my friend Gary Chirimuta up there. He is talented and he deserves to play for Zimbabwe without a doubt.

BZ: Dean, thanks for your time. All the best.
DM: Thank you, Brighton. All the best with your career as well. I am happy with what you are doing now. God bless you, mate.