HARARE – At 33, cricketer star Hamilton Masakadza is proud that half of his lifetime has been spent on the field, let alone that he still serves the Zimbabwe senior men national team with impunity.
His coach at Mountaineers where he has been attached for so long for his provincial cricket formally known as franchise cricket, Shepherd Makunura has described him as a player every coach would always want in the team “and brings a lot of positive energy in your side,” a description that best suits no one but Zimbabwe cricket top order batsman Hamilton Masakadza who on Thursday marked 16 years since making his Test debut with the senior men’s national team against West Indies in Harare on July 27, 2001.
As Masakadza watched the second match of the just ended three-match Youth One Day International Series between hosts Zimbabwe U19 and the visiting West Indies, our Sports Writer, Austin Karonga sat down with the international cricketer Masakadza to find out about his journey with Zimbabwe Cricket. Below are the excerpts of the interview:
Q: Sixteen years not out and still counting, how special a milestone is this?
A: Obviously it’s very special to have represented the country for this long. I have gone through a lot and I have seen a lot of nice things. We have just come off a nice Test against Sri Lanka now which we played quite well and were unfortunate not to win at the end but it’s been an incredible journey and it’s been really good.
Q: Talking about having gone through a lot, can you outline some of the challenges that you encountered in your journey to the top?
A: The biggest thing with us is the stop-start nature of our careers and our game. We don’t really play as much cricket as the other countries that we play against especially in Test cricket; we don’t really play a lot and there was also the little bit of time that we spent away from playing Test cricket.
Q: What has kept you going despite all these ups and downs?
A: Obviously it’s just the passion for the game and the passion for representing my country. It’s something that I had always dreamt about even from the first day I started playing cricket in primary school when I was still in Grade 4.I always dreamt about playing for the country and especially representing my country in Test cricket. Being really one of my dreams come true that in itself has kept me going being able to play at this level and to continue playing at this level has really been quite special to me.
Q: What memories do you still hold of that maiden Test hundred when you were still a Churchill High schoolboy back in 2001?
A: Obviously that features as one of my best moments making a hundred in my first game but even equally more special was making a hundred on return to Test cricket as well against Bangladesh and obviously just experiencing different cultures and to experiencing different countries going around playing cricket around the world especially the West Indies that’s the country that I have enjoyed playing in the most.I have really enjoyed being there and I have really enjoyed the culture there and I have really enjoyed just the general love that the people have for the game.
Q: From the maiden century in your first Test you have only managed to add three more hundreds what have been the challenges?
A: Obviously like I said the main thing for us is the stop-start thing because we have also long periods between games so it always feels like you are starting every time that you play. We don’t really have any continuity so that’s been the biggest challenge. Whether you picked up a little bit of form you don’t really see it because you have to wait another two months before you play the next game you have to wait another year or so and that’s always been a feature of my career and something that has always been with us in terms of Zimbabwe Cricket.
Q: You were appointed team captain across all the formats but was dropped after just two T20s, how much did this impact on your career?
A: Obviously it does play on the back of your mind but things happen in life, things happen in sports, so the best thing to do is to just put it behind you and look forward, so that’s what I have just tried to do not to think about it too much but concentrate on the job that I have. As a senior player in the team and one of the top order batsman; I just try and do my job and put some runs on the board for the team.
Q: Your recent success in Sri Lanka, you were named man-of-the-series on the backdrop of the century (111) you scored in the third match to help Zimbabwe register a historic ODI series win against the Asian side. What would you attribute this to?
A: A little bit better preparation. I think it’s just the culmination of a lot of work going in just starting to show the results now because a lot of the things that we worked on with the batting coach and even the things that we were working on with the previous batting coach before Lance (Klusener) came along. I think all of those are starting to come into play with guys trying a lot more options and guys just being a little bit more positive I think that contributed to my success and the success of the whole team in general. I think guys are expressing themselves a lot more and are they not shy to try other options like sweeping and reverse sweeping whereas previously the guys weren’t really keen on doing those sort of things but I think now because we have done a little bit of work with the current batting coach and the previous batting coach as well and I think the guys are a little bit more confident and enjoying it.
Q: In 2002, a year after your debut you put your career briefly on hold to go and study. What programme did you study and at what stage are you going to be using that degree?
A: Yes, obviously you can’t play the game forever so I always knew that, hence I did a Marketing Degree at the University of the Free State which I finished. Hopefully when I am done playing I can change the reds for maybe a shirt and tie somewhere.
Q: Your siblings — Shingi (pace bowler) and Wellington (spinner) how much of an inspiration have they been and vice versa?
A: They have been a huge inspiration. It’s one of the most special things I have had playing with both of them in the Mountaineers team and obviously just bouncing ideas off one another and just being there together in the same team. Having grown up with them and having watched them grow especially the youngest one (Wellington) where there’s a 10-year gap to actually be in the same team and playing at the same level now has been really special for me although we still haven’t managed to play a game as all three of us in the national team. We have managed to play a few games at Mountaineers at franchise level all three of us together so it has been really special moments for us and really something that has kept me going as well.
Q: And to the fans who have stuck with you supporting you all the way and now call you “Mudhara Hammy?”
A: All I can say is that the guys have really backed us through all thick and all thin they have really stayed with us even when we weren’t playing that well. So I think just a big shout out to them and say thank you very much for keeping on backing us just the way they have. It means a whole lot for the team when things like that happen. I think even a few of the guys mentioned it when we sealed the series in Sri Lanka that the only thing that was missing was that it wasn’t in from of our home fans even the rest of the team was being able to thank the fans even when we were away in Sri Lanka so just the testament to just how special it is for the boys that the fans are always behind us like they are.
Q: In terms of your marital status, is Mudhara Hammy taken now or still available?
A: Married now, no kids yet but married to Vimbai, married for seven years now.
Q: The coming on board of Tatenda Taibu as convenor of selectors. How do you relate to him now having played in the same time earlier before his retirement?
A: Just the man that he is and the experience he brings to the table. He really has a passion for the game, passion for Zimbabwe Cricket. Good knowledge base of the game which will always help when you have people like that. Being involved with people that played at the highest level for that long, captained the country and so much knowledge, I think it has really helped us.
Q: Where do we go after that highly successful tour of Sri Lanka?
A: The main thing is to try and build on it and build onto the next series and try to play as well as we did then and then obviously moving on from there and starting going up that rankings table again.
Q: At 33 you are so young, what can we expect from you going forward?
A: One step at a time I guess. I’m still enjoying my cricket; I’m still enjoying being out there representing the country. The next target now is the World Cup Qualifiers which hopefully will we be hosting and like I said one step at a time that’s the next target for now build up towards that and hopefully I hope the team qualifiers for the next 50 overs World Cup.