Soccer with the Masakadza Family Wellington on the left, Hamilton next to ivan on the right and Shingirai on the far right
Soccer with the Masakadza Family Wellington on the left, Hamilton next to ivan on the right and Shingirai on the far right

Takashinga has produced and continues to produce the best cricketing talent in Zimbabwe.

They have been in Uganda twice, to play against the national team and have left a huge mark on the locals every time.

Uganda’s Ivan Thawitamwira had a short stint playing with them in Zimbabwe, here is what Ivan shared with Kawowo Sports about his stay in Zimbabwe.

Qn. How did you land the opportunity to play for Takashinga in Zimbabwe?

The opportunity to play for Takashinga landed  during their visit to Kampala, I asked their coach to give me a chance to visit and play a few games on a trial basis for them. I told them I would fund my own trip and they need not worry about anything else other than giving me a try. They told me they would get back to me. A few months later they did, and that’s how I ended up in Takashinga.

Qn. How was the experience playing in unfamiliar territory?

My experience playing in foreign territory was mixed one. At first I had to deal with my own expectations of myself and those of the Takashinga players that I imagined were there. It turns out they were so welcoming and made me feel at home. On the cricket ground, it was the most fulfilling one, being in the same team with at least 10 test players and many more who have represented Zimbabwe at ODI or T20 levels.
Then the conditions were not bad actually. The wickets were good and true, but coming from a background of slow and low pitches, the first few days were challenging. But I had to adopt quickly.

Qn. Did you get a chance to play with the Masakadza brothers and if so how was it?

Like I said, I got a chance to play or train with almost all Zimbabwe players, that means all the 3 Masakadza brothers. I was in the same team as they were. Takashinga has 2 teams in the top flight league, that is, the Zimbabwe Premier League. So the team I was in has the brothers playing in it. It was a priceless experience. Seeing how they go about their businesses great. Their youngest brother has joined the National team as well and played in the recent series against West Indies and Afghanistan as a left arm orthodox spinner. Hamilton gave me so much time teaching me about batting and how he goes about it.

[/media-credit] Ivan Thawitamwira meeting former National Team Captain Elton Chigumbura Credit: Ivan Thawitamwira

Qn. Comparing the 2 cricket cultures, what are the differences, similarities and what can we learn from Zimbabwe?

Their cricket culture is obviously way above ours. It is mainly a professional culture, and not much casual cricket is played. Their work ethic is so impressive. People start practice from 8:00am till very late in the evening, taking only short convenience breaks in between. The whole day there’s practice being done.
In regards to the similarities, they don’t have so much in terms of equipment or great facilities. They have simple things, however they make the most of it, and they’ve organized it so well and maintained what they have. Also, to sustain the club, the senior players who have gone on to play franchise cricket or for the national side contribute resources to keep the club going. Then they share their old equipment with the younger guys coming through.
We definitely are the ones who have much to learn from them. Doing the simple things properly, like having good wickets, good outfields, and of course organisation. I can say we have better natural talent, but we haven’t harnessed and organized it well enough as they have.

Qn. From Takashinga which player made the greatest impression on you?

It’s hard to pick who was better, because there was something unique about all those guys. Their passion for the game has never dwindled, they work as hard, whether it’s the youngest guy trying to make it or the most senior national team player. Work is done by all. I was also impressed by how the senior guys share they knowledge with the rookies. Most times the it’s the senior guys organizing the training sessions. But Hamilton Masakadza and Timycen Maruma made a great impression on me because they personally coached and lectured me on batting. I was also impressed by Tinotenda Mutombodzi’s work rate. The challenge is, I had, to add to those guys, Forster Mutizwa, Taurai Muzarabani, Shingi Masakadza, Wellington Masakadza, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, Tapiwa Mufudza, Roy Kaia, Innocent Kaia for constant company. Not to mention Tinashe Panyangara, Chamu Chibaba, Regis Chakabva, Elton Chigumbura who I met at various times. I just got overawed instead of impressed.

[/media-credit] Ivan Thawitamwira with former Zimbabwe Captain Prosper Utseya who is also the current U19 coach of Zimbabwe Credit: Ivan

Qn. What lessons did you get from your stint with Takashinga?

The biggest lesson I got was to trust in my ability. We are not far off in terms of skills ability. The stage is what sometimes overwhelms people and they forget what they can do when they’re intimidated by it. But if we calm down and trust the years of hard work and the games we have played, then it shouldn’t be a problem performing well.

Qn. We hear lots of subjective stories about life in Zimbabwe, give us an unbiased opinion?

Life isn’t as we hear it or see it in the news, to be perfectly honest. People go about their business as honestly as they can. They are hardworking and very friendly people. Peaceful too. They complain about the economic crisis, but I also found they have the highest number of Mercedes-Benz cars I have ever seen per square meter. I think African problems are the same. We always want to find an excuse for our poverty. We are so comfortable with it, we would rather live in it and complain rather than find collective solutions. How is it that Strive Matsiyiwa, the billionaire lives in the same economy? For sure many things have deteriorated, but that is common among all African nations.

Qn. What was your best memory while with Takashinga?

The best memory, am sorry, is cricket related. I won a game, the only game I played for Takashinga, under a big pressure moment. We traveled to a place called Mutare, to play our arch rivals. We needed 48 or so runs in the last 4 overs when I came in to bat at 7. All the big guns were out. It came down to 21 needed off 2 overs. I got 20 in one over, facing 8 balls over all. Mind you I was facing Donald Tiripano and Tendai Chatara, Zimbabwe’s current opening bowlers who were bowling at the death. Tiripano had just, not long previously, defended 6 runs in the last over against the West Indies. After that encounter, Takashinga hierarchy formally asked me to go back and play for them on a much longer basis, which I will be doing.

Qn. Compare playing for Takashinga and Challengers.

Both Challengers and Takashinga offer different challenges that are unique. They’re both good learning academic grounds. For example, the ability to win games for challengers helped me to win a game for Takashinga. In return, what I learned from Takashinga is easily employed in Challengers. So I wouldn’t make too much disparity between the two. I also think challengers as a unit would compete so well in the Zimbabwe league.

Qn. Challengers or Takashinga?

It’s a no-brainer. I’d rather play for Takashinga. The experience is invaluable. Being surrounded by test and ODI players is the pinnacle. Plus there’s a chance to play franchise cricket, as Prosper Utseya told me.

Thanks Ivan and we wish you well when you go back to Zimbabwe. We shall closely be following you.

Denis has represented Uganda in international cricket events including the World Cup. He is currently the captain of Wanderers Cricket Club.

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