From dusty streets to lush fields

HARARE - Talent helps, but it won’t take you as far as ambition. 

The above is an age-old adage in the sporting world, but one that rings true to Hilton Toro, who has remarkably defied the extraordinary circumstances of his township upbringing in Mabvuku to become a well-respected coach at one of South Africa’s leading cricket-playing junior schools, Somerset College.

Following a month-long England tour with Leopards Unde-15s (an invitational side of Western Cape schools and KwaZulu Natal schools), the 28-year-old from Harare has nostalgically relived his modest-playing career in Zimbabwe, his entry into coaching and his faith in Jesus Christ.

Young Hilton, like many black kids of his era, was weaned on football in the dusty streets of the townships, distinguishing himself in the sport at Donnybrook Primary School in Mabvuku.

He started off his cricket in Mabvuku through a Zimbabwe Cricket development programme initiated by Mabvuku natives Dominic Lampiao and Stanley Mushaninga.

The revered development stalwart, Bill Flower, the father of Zimbabwe greats Andy and Grant, offered a helping hand in the formative years.

“I was introduced to the game when I was 14 by my friends at Mabvuku Sports Centre, then was fortunate enough to be at Churchill Boys High at the time,” Toro tells the Daily News.

“The skills that I learnt from my township upbringing were key. I would then go and use them at the school. I played a few games for the school but played most of my cricket for Mabvuku Cricket Club.” 

On leaving school, Toro ventured into club cricket, initially at his boyhood club Mabvuku before turning out for Chitungwiza outfit Uprising.

The pinnacle of his playing career would be the few games he featured for Alexandra Sports Club in the then National League and Mashonaland in the Faithwear one-day championship.

He says: “I thank God for all these opportunities.”

Through ZC’s development programme, Toro earned his coaching badges, driven by a desire to “give back to my community and also earn a living.”

He coached schools in the Mabvuku and Tafara area before returning to Churchill, where he has fond memories as a cricketer and a handy rugby player.

“At Churchill, I managed to coach for a few years then through the grace of God, I managed to get an opportunity to be involved with Zimbabwe Under-19 team.”

Toro travelled to Malaysia with the youth side for the 2008 ICC Under-19 World Cup as assistant to head coach Shepherd Makunura. 

That was a big breakthrough for Toro, who moved to South Africa following the World Cup, to Western Province, where he played and coached at Somerset West Cricket Club through an invitation by the club.

“Through the grace of God, I managed to do my coaching levels through Western Province and got the chance to get my Level Three in coaching. I have since coached Somerset College, Helderberg Regional Side, Somerset West Cricket Club, Western Province Under-13 and Under-19, as well as Leopards Under-15.”

Last month, Toro toured England with Somerset, leading his charges against some of the UK’s best cricket playing schools.

“It has been awesome experience and a great learning curve in a different environment,” he says.

“The environment is great, you have an opportunity to grow.  Back in South Africa, we play in the Boland Premier League, which is the highest league with a great level of competition.

The level of cricket has improved so much and we have been privileged to have eight players representing provincial teams.

We are also humbled as we get the chance to host national Under-19 games at our school. We have since hosted Zimbabwe against Pakistan and South Africa in a triangular series.

“The experience has been great and the support has been awesome. It is such a blessing working with all these people and having one goal of seeing each other develop to maximum potential. Parental support has be great and it’s good to have players who are keen and are willing to go an extra mile to improve their game.”

The UK tour has been one of the major highlights of his coaching career so far, with an opportunity to visit some of the sport's most famous and hallowed grounds.

“The UK tour was fantastic, the experience was great. It’s always good to have players experience such tours at an early stage and play on wonderful facilities which have lots of history with it. The conditions are different, the ball swings and the wickets play different.

“Being at the Oval, Lords and The Rose Bowl was my major highlight. It was also great playing at the oldest schools in UK, like Winchester College, Eton College and Charterhouse.”

Comments (3)

well done my brother....with God everything is possible.

Talent - 12 August 2013

God is surely gracious i thank God for your testimony but its not over yet there is still more to come...well done hiri

marshal batsirai madamombe - 12 August 2013

if you believe and trust in the living God His purpose for your life will never fail no matter how good or bad you were brought up.He is the way the truth and the life" divine compus"

chamunorwa nyariri - 12 August 2013

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