Has Hamilton's time arrived?

HARARE - Although he’s one of Zimbabwe’s best top order batsmen of his generation, Hamilton Masakadza has never played at the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup before.

Even his young brother by three years Shingi Masakadza, who only took up cricket on a fulltime basis after quitting football in 2010, represented Zimbabwe at the last World Cup co-hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in 2011.

With Zimbabwe set to name the squad for the World Cup to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand today it will be difficult for the selectors to ignore Masakadza this time around.

Since scoring a ton on his Test debut at Harare Sports Club against the West Indies in 2001, Masakadza has been one of the consistent performers in a team that has generally struggled against other Test-playing nations.

In 29 Tests, the Highfield-born right-handed batsman has scored 1712 runs at an average of 30.57 which puts him in sixth position on the list of Zimbabwe’s leading Test run scorers.

He’s behind such illustrious company like Andy Flower, Grant Flower, Alistair Campbell, Guy Whittall and Heath Streak.

In the limited overs format, the 31-year-old is no slouch either with the batting as he has a total of 3961 with a slightly lower average of 28.29 in 144 matches.

Only for other Zimbabweans, the Flower brothers, Alistair Campbell and Brendan Taylor have scored more ODI runs than Masakadza.

Despite these feats, the former Churchill Boys High student has failed to appeal to the Zimbabwean selectors when it comes to the World Cup.

Although he had made his breakthrough in to the senior side, Masakadza was not selected for the 2003 World Cup which Zimbabwe co-hosted with South Africa and Kenya.

At that time, Craig Wishart, Mark Vermeulen, Dion Ebrahim, Andy Blignaut and the Flower brothers were the mainstay of the Zimbabwe top order.

At the same time, Masakadza has put his cricket career on the back burner as he concentrated on his studies in South Africa.

Shortly after the 2003 World Cup, the infamous rebel saga broke out in Zimbabwean cricket when 15 white senior players revolted against the decision strip Streak of the captaincy, it opened the doors for Masakadza and many other black cricketers.

Although Masakadza enjoyed an extended run in the ODI squad his luck, however, did not change as the Zimbabwean selectors excluded him for the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.

At that time, the selectors gave the nod to Friday Kasteni, then a 19-year-old greenhorn with only one ODI match under his belt, ahead of Masakadza.

It was major heartbreak but Masakadza was not deterred as he continued to work on his game out of the national team in the hope of earning his spot in the near future.

By the time the 2011 World Cup arrived, Masakadza had cemented his spot in the Zimbabwe ODI squad.

In 56 ODI matches between 2008 and 2010, Masakadza had scored 1752 runs at 31.28 but once again the Zimbabwe selectors thought otherwise and omitted him from the 15-man squad that travelled to Asia for the World Cup in 2011.

Masakadza had paid dearly for a below par performance in the second half of 2010 when his form dipped drastically.

With Zimbabwe voluntary revoking its Test status, the opener struggled to score runs during the incoming tour by associate nation Ireland when he scored a paltry eight runs in three matches.

There was no improvement in his form when Zimbabwe travelled to South Africa to face the Proteas and scored 35 runs in two matches.

The final nail in the coffin came in the year-end tour to Bangladesh where Masakadza struggled for runs scoring only nine in two matches.

This time around, it will be difficult for the selectors to omit Masakadza from the 15-man squad scheduled to be unveiled today.

In 2014, Masakadza was Zimbabwe’s leading run scorer with 532 runs at an average of 35.46 in 15 matches.

The next best Zimbabwean batsman in the limited overs format was Test captain Taylor with 411 runs in 15 matches.

However, there have been many surprises before by the Zimbabwe selectors and Masakadza is testimony of that effect.

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