Brighton Zhawi In The Oval
He was called ‘Mr Dots’ for his frugal spells. Others prefer calling him by his totem, Chirandu, while in some people’s eyes he is simply a Zimbabwe Cricket legend.
Its five years since Prosper Utseya last played for Zimbabwe, with his final game an ODI against New Zealand in August 2015 at Harare Sports Club.
No one has more ODI wickets at Harare Sports Club than Utseya’s 52.
In the history of ODI cricket, which dates back to 1971 when Australia played England in Melbourne, there has only been 49 hat-tricks – two of them are by Zimbabwean bowlers.
Eddo Brandes was the first, claiming his (Nick Knight, John Crawley and Nasser Hussain) against England at Harare Sports Club in 1997.
Utseya got his (Quinton de Kock, Rilee Rossouw and David Miller) against South Africa at the same venue in 2014.
In his career, Utseya played four Tests, 164 ODIs and 35 T20s.
He currently coaches the Zimbabwe Under-19 team.
Brighton Zhawi had a chat with Utseya, who spoke about his playing days – the highs and the lows – for this week’s edition of In The Oval.
Q: In three words, how would you describe your 11 years of international cricket?
A: Unique. Inspirational. Challenging.
Q: How do you view the way your international career started?
A: I feel it was fate taking its course and I am grateful to have had the privilege and honour to represent my country at international level.
Q: And how it ended?
A: Growth in skill and mastery of basics.
Q: In 2014 Prosper Utseya played arguably his best cricket. There is the hat-trick against South Africa and that lower order batting performance in the famous win over Australia. Tell me about those two fine performances?
A: I put that down to growth in skill, understanding home conditions and mastery of basics over a long period of time, which resulted in peak performance.
Q: A week before your hat-trick, you had been called for a suspect bowling action. How was that?
A: It was an adversity which came as a setback that I needed to show resilience to overcome.
Q: You went for bowling action tests and got cleared to bowl medium pace and obviously it wasn’t the same. Do you feel perhaps you needed more time to remodel your action?
A: I had ample time to assess my previous test results with my old bowling action and the best way forward for me was to adapt to the new bowling action, which was then cleared.
Q: You are the most successful bowler in ODIs at Harare Sports Club. You picked 52 wickets in your 59 innings at the venue. How do you feel about that, especially being more of an economical bowler who even got the moniker “Mr Dots”?
A: It is a milestone I will cherish for a long time, but I am glad that I managed to use my understanding of home conditions for the benefit of the team.
Q: You made your ODI debut at 19 together with Elton Chigumbura, Tinashe Panyangara and Brendon Taylor. How was the experience like? It was an usual debut since you did not bat or bowl.
A: It was unique in the sense that it came earlier than anticipated, but we were all ecstatic for each other having gone through fairly successfully age-group cricket together. The match was rain-interrupted; that is why I didn’t get the opportunity to bowl.
Q: Do you feel that team or squad that faced Sri Lanka on April 20 2004 got the appreciation it deserves considering it was the team that some believe ‘saved’ Zimbabwe Cricket after the rebels saga?
A: I think that is subjective.
Q: Two years after your international debut you were the team captain. Were you surprised by the move and were you ready to lead?
A: It came as a pleasant surprise. It was never a matter of being ready but taking on the challenge, which I am pleased to say it turned out to be a very successful four-year tenure, resulting in a 30,14 percent winning record – second best of all Zim captain’s with 50 matches and above at the helm.
Q: Its five years on since you last played for Zimbabwe. How has been life after playing? You are now ‘coach Pro’?
A: My life hasn’t changed much; as you aware, I am still heavily involved in giving back to cricket.
Q: How is the challenge of being the Under-19 team coach?
A: It is a tough job which I am doing my level best to deliver under difficult circumstances for the satisfaction of the organisation and Zimbabwe at large.
Q: For someone working with teenage cricketers, how do you see the future of cricket in Zimbabwe in terms of talent?
A: It is never a question of talent in Zimbabwe, but how we develop them into successful youth international cricketers who go on to dominate international national cricket at the highest level.
This responsibility does not only fall on me as Under-19s’ coach, but all stakeholders involved in nurturing cricketers from primary to secondary stage, guided by successful player development pathway. Should we manage to do that successfully, I have no doubt our future is bright.
Q: You have been seen coaching your son Ricardo. How is the boy as a cricketer?
A: I help out here and there but he has his own coach. However, he still has a lot to learn.
Q: In local cricket circles you are respected for a “brilliant cricket brain” by some of your former teammates and players you coached. How is that?
A: Thank you. I guess it came through continuous learning from our predecessor’s, playing experience, mentors and my passion for the game.