HARARE – Mountaineers spinner Natsai Mshangwe is slowly turning into a good batsman in the same way he has perfected his googly delivery.
Although he made his One Day International debut back in 2011 primarily as a spinner, a year earlier Mshangwe was opening the batting for the Zimbabwe Under-19 at the World Cup in New Zealand.
In the just-ended domestic season, the 26-year-old managed a high score with an unbeaten 66 runs in the first innings of the Logan Cup match against Mashonaland Eagles at Old Hararians last month.
The Mountaineers cricketer is now capable of spending as much time on the crease batting as well as bowling.
Mshangwe finished the just-ended 2016-17 Logan Cup season with 141 runs from seven matches with an average of 23.50.
His fellow teammate Kevin Kasuza leads the batting charts with 446 runs from the same number of matches with a high score of 104 and an average of 44.60.
“I have always contributed with the bat though. At the Under-19 World Cup in 2010, I used to open the batting for Zimbabwe and was successful,” Mshangwe told the Daily News on Sunday.
“I was man-of-the-match twice. But coming in to this year’s Logan Cup I just had to get my mind right and back myself as well as believing in myself more.
“The thing is I was more of a bowler at franchise level when I came back from New Zealand so because of the plenty all-rounders we had at Mountaineers I could bat at number 10 and you can’t really do much with the bat batting that low so I just had to stick to bowling.”
The Highfield-born bowler was, however, instrumental with the ball helping Mountaineers win the domestic premier four-day competition.
He finished the season as the leading wicket taker in the Logan Cup with 24 victims.
His haul included 19 maiden overs with a best innings bowling performance of eight wickets for 91 runs and a match innings of performance of 11/100 at an economy rate of 3.51. His teammate and seamer Shingi Masakadza was second on the list with 23 wickets.
“Firstly, I thank God for the gift …I can say having played more longer version games in the past coming into the Logan Cup being patient was my main strength and knowing when to bowl the wicket taking delivery (that is the variation balls, googly and the sliders) and it worked,” Mshangwe said.
Upon returning from the 2010 U19 World Cup in New Zealand, Mshangwe quickly made the step up the ladder when he was given his Zimbabwe ODI debut against the Black Caps in Bulawayo the following year.
He went on to play five T20s, two Tests and six ODIs for Zimbabwe but since the Test defeat to Bangladesh in Chittagong in November 2014, he has not been part of the national team again.
However, with the way he performed with the ball in the Logan Cup last season, Mshangwe is hoping to convince the selectors to give him a recall.
“Obviously, it’s something that I’m constantly working on each time I get a chance to play in provincial cricket to put up some good performances and by doing so the good performances will get me selected,” he said.
Mshangwe is married to Milanda and the couple was recently blessed with daughter Keendel three months ago.
“I can say I have more of a chilled and relaxed personality. I do have a sister, Gamuchirai Mshangwe and when I’m not playing cricket I do attend UFIC Church services two to three times a week,” he said.
“When I’m not at church, I’m at home with my wife and my daughter watching movies here and there and on weekends, we find somewhere to go out and enjoy family time.”
His father Tsungirirai remains his greatest inspiration. “Without him, I wouldn’t have played the game and he’s always supporting me,” he said.
Being a native of Highfield, naturally Mshangwe’s game has its roots at Takashinga Cricket Club.
“I’m a product of Takashinga Cricket Club and I give credit to them for providing the facility that I worked on since I was in primary school. I give them credit for my success,” he said.
“I started playing cricket when I was nine years old while at Chipembere Primary School in Highfield for fun but when I went to high school (Highfield 1 High) that’s when I chose to take cricket as a career.
“I had seen how my cricket brothers had made it (Timycen Maruma and Tafadzwa Kamungozi, both with Mountaineers) really supported me and kept me going and encouraged me to keep working hard whenever I thought of giving up.”
Mountaineers coach Shepherd Makunura described Mshangwe as a very religious young man and a vital cog for the team.
“He was the leading wicket taker in the Logan Cup and we didn’t use him much in the Pro 50,” Makunura said.
“He bowled very well for us, played a crucial role in our season with both bat and ball. Apart from wickets, he also had some valuable contributions with the bat.
“He is a big asset to us. He is a talented player and with constant hard work and results he should be knocking on selection soon.
“He needed a season like the one he has just had to regain his confidence and get back on track.”