Senior Sports Reporter
HAMILTON MASAKADZA’S appointment to the position of director of cricket at Zimbabwe Cricket is proving to be a masterstroke.
Masakadza has been busy, in the last few weeks, with the launch of club cricket for both the men’s and women’s games.
The National Premier League has been welcomed across the game while the women’s one day and T20 competitions signal a new era in the development of the sport in the country.
Club cricket has been the missing link, over the years, and many promising talented players have been lost, especially after school, as there were no structures to absorb the numbers.
“Our club cricket league is a platform where we get an opportunity for the young and upcoming cricketers to mix with all the experienced guys.
“We do this at domestic level, as well, in the provincial tournament but, at this level, there is a little bit more opportunity as there are more teams coming together and playing against each other.
I also started playing at this level, when I was still in Form Three or Form Four.
“I remember my first moments, facing the then fastest bowlers in the country, the likes of Henry Olonga and Brighton Watambwa, when I was still in school.
“Just the experience of playing against the senior guys helped me in my career. That’s exactly the same we are trying to achieve,’’ said Masakadza.
Financial challenges, in the past, hampered the implementation of some of the programmes.
“We have had a bit of challenges with the finances, in the recent past, now that we are past that, I am also grateful that management has allowed us to sort of reintroduce the programmes that we used to have,’’ said Masakadza.
“They have allowed us to reintroduce all the things that we need to do and to develop our game and to develop our cricketers.
“What we see, in the end, is the end-result when the guys stand before you in the international game.
“But, what we don’t see is the hard work leading up to it. I am really excited about what the future holds for Zimbabwe cricket.”
Masakadza’s experience, as an international cricketer, has helped him in his new role in the administration of the sport.
He has called for a return to the basics and the need for structures to support the development of the game.
In one year, the direction the game is likely to take, is getting clearer.
A product of ZC’s development programme, Masakadza introduced himself to the big stage in Test cricket in a big way.
During his 19-year international career, he represented Zimbabwe more than 300 times — in 68 Tests, 209 ODIs, and 66 T20Is.
He racked up more than 2 000 Test runs, as well as 5 658 runs and 39 wickets in ODIs.
Masakadza retired from international cricket last year, finishing on a high by scoring 71 from only 42 balls, in a tight victory over Afghanistan during a T20I tri-series in Bangladesh.
He was back in the limelight, a few weeks ago, as the world looked back to the feat he accomplished, 19 years ago, when he broke the records by becoming the youngest cricketer to score a Test century on debut.
His 119-runs against the West Indies in Harare back in 2001, when he was a 17-year old schoolboy, remains one of the best moments of his career.
There is need for ZC to invest in grounds and equipment to support budding cricketers.
After the launch of the limited overs competitions, one also hopes that the next phase will be to develop first-class cricket, which will help groom talent for Test cricket.
Masakadza has also been credited with the organisation of the first women’s competitions, which were launched during the midweek.
“We are looking at a new era where they have moved on from having just a handful of games, against a Churchill Under-16 boys side, to actually having tournaments where they play against each other.
“It also gives the selectors an opportunity to see which of the girls are improving and which ones are stepping up for national team selection.
“We have improved the playing field and we only expect to see the girls growing from strength to strength,” said Masakadza.
NPL fixtures: Tomorrow
Rainbow v Queens (Kwekwe Sports Club)
Easterns v Gladiators (Mutare Sports Club)
Amakhosi v Midwest (Bulawayo Athletic Club)
Great Zimbabwe v Takashinga (Masvingo Sports Club)