Chakabva steps into the limelight

HARARE - Wind back the clock to last week, and Bangladesh have just put themselves in a spot of bother in the first Test at Mirpur, chasing down a seemingly comfortable second innings winning target.

The Zimbabweans momentarily have their tails up, and the little man behind the wicket, Regis Chakabva, has cranked up the volume and doing his best to spur the bowlers on. 

Thanks to the wonderful technology of the stump microphone, we can pick out every word at home.

“Urikugona Faffy, urikugona,” he calls down to leg-spinner Tafadzwa Kamungozi in Shona.

“Gara ipapo, usabve!”

Directly translated, the last one means “stay there, don’t move!,” an instruction to Kamungozi to keep bowling in the same right areas.

“Chiri ku swinger here? (Is it swinging?),” he asks seamer Tendai Chatara the next over. 

Chakabva – who has recently scored his maiden Test century albeit in the 162-run second Test defeat to Bangladesh in the subcontinent – reminds you a lot about Tatenda Taibu in so many ways than just being a diminutive wicketkeeper.

Not only does he model his game after Taibu, but there is also the uncanny resemblance, easy-going demeanour and a penchant for the Bible that’s well-known and respected in the changing room. 

In his short international career, Chakabva has been a 40s, 50s and 60s kind of batsman, consistent enough to frequently warrant a place in the team.

You got a feeling a breakthrough hundred was on its way, sooner than later, and to get that in only his seventh Test match, under difficult conditions, will please Chakabva.

Batting with the veteran Hamilton Masakadza for most of the innings in a 147-run stand for the sixth wicket, right-hander Chakabva patiently waited for the loose ball and attacked when the opportunity presented itself. He provided good support to Masakadza (career-best 158) in a match changing knock, ample proof that he can bat and shift gears in different situations.

Apart from the good strike rate, Chakabva also batted well with the tail, hallmark of a batsman’s quality.

Traits of Taibu were evident in that innings. He runs well between the wickets and puts the fielders under pressure. He has good wrists, plays textbook shots and very strong through the offside and on frontfoot; a technically solid batsman who can take the attack to the bowlers, though not a big-hitter, like Chris Gayle or Elton Chigumbura.

“He has a strong work ethic and KC (the late Mashonaland Eagles coach Kevin Curran) always used him as an example of a pro athlete,” says Joseph Madyembwa, who was part of the Eagles technical department as the franchise’s team manager.

“He believes in practising till you can’t get it wrong, not till you get it right. He’s a fitness fanatic, one of the fittest guys I’ve ever come across apart from Tatenda Taibu.”

Chakabva is now 27, a rather late developer in the game. He grew up in Highfield, attending Highfield High before Zimbabwe Cricket noticed his potential and awarded him a scholarship to Churchill Boys High for his ‘A’ Levels.

He represented Zimbabwe at the Afro-Asia Under-19 Cup in 2005, and has over the years enjoyed successful domestic seasons, underlined by a double century for Mash Eagles last season.

A season in Australia also helped him quite a lot, and he had been there before with Prosper Tsvanhu, Tendai Chisoro and Friday Kasteni through a Zimbabwe-Australia exchange programme, based at the Commonwealth Bank Centre of Excellence in Brisbane.

Chakabva becomes only the fourth Zimbabwean to score a Test hundred since the resumption of Test commitments in 2011 – the third to do achieve the feat for the first time after Brendan Taylor and Tino Mawoyo.

His wicket-keeping is also an important component of his game, although he has stiff competition from Richmond Mutumbami in that department. But if Chakabva can concentrate on being a specialist keeper, he can only get better.

A strong moral character is also a hallmark of the recently married Chakabva, the perfect gentleman on and off the pitch.

“He is the only player I never fined for any misdemeanour,” adds Madyembwa, now living and working in England.

“Just how do you fine Reggie for? He’s always on time for training. He’s hardly found on the wrong side, a marvel to work with. Reggie is a humble person. He also has an affection for youngsters, always there to offer help and keep them motivated by giving away his personal kit.”

And having been in and out of the team in his young international career, it appears now he will stay there just a little bit more, like he was telling Kamungozi last week.

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