Masakadza over the moon

HARARE - Some 14 years after his Test debut, Hamilton Masakadza is pretty chuffed to be in the Zimbabwe 15-man squad for the 2015 Cricket World Cup.

Masakadza had a meteoric rise to stardom as a 17-year-old when he scored a Test century on his Zimbabwe debut against the West Indies at Harare Sports Club in 2001.

At that time he was still a schoolboy at Churchill Boys High and the world was at his feet.

Many would have thought by 2015, Masakadza would have had made Cricket World Cup matches under his belt by now.

Professional sport is a cruel world and the Highfield born opening batsman can testify to that analogy.

Masakadza was not picked for the 2003 World Cup as he was behind the pecking order in the Zimbabwe set-up that still included great top order batsmen like the Flower brothers Andy and Grant.

Craig Wishart, Mark Vermeulen, Dion Ebrahim and Andy Blignaut were also the mainstay of that Zimbabwe team at the 2003 World Cup.

Masakadza was also dropped from the Zimbabwe squad for the 2007 World Cup with the selectors opting to travel with a 17-year-old Friday Kasteni, who had one ODI match against his name at that time.

The selectors read from the same script when the announced the Zimbabwe squad for the last Cricket World Cup held in the West Indies in 2011.

There was no room for Masakadza but his young brother Shingi, who had only turned professional in 2010 after quitting a football career, was in the squad.

When the Zimbabwe squad for this year’s World Cup to be held in Australia and New Zealand was announced at the start of this month, Hamilton was not fully confident that his name will be among the 15.

This time around his name amongst the travelling party while batsman Vusi Sibanda the biggest casualty as he was only named as part of the five non-travelling reserves.

“Obviously I was a bit anxious on the day of the squad announcement,” Masakadza tells the Daily News on Sunday.

“I had had a decent run in towards the squad announcement because of the runs I had scored during the tour of Bangladesh.

“I however, still had a feeling in my heart that maybe it might happen again that I might be dropped from the squad.”

That uneasy feeling was squashed with a sense of great pride and a sense of fulfilment when the squad was announced and Masakadza was on the list.

“Obviously I felt very excited to be part of the team going to the World Cup. It was always my dram to represent my country at the world Cup,” says Masakadza.

“It was something that I always thought about from the days when I was still in school. My first pot of call was to work hard and make it into the Test squad and after that I always wanted to play at the World Cup.”

Masakadza says although he was pleased to make it into the World Cup team, his celebrations were muted.

“It was a great relief and a surreal feeling making it into the World Cup squad but I did not celebrate a lot,” he says.

“I will not sit on my laurels that I’ve been selected into the tem going to the World Cup. There is still a lot of work to be done because we need to put in a good performance there.

“As a team, we need to win at least four of five games so that we have a good chance of progressing from the group stages into the knockout stage.

“As an individual, I want to make some good performances at the top of the order in order to give the team a good chance of winning the matches.”

In Australia and New Zealand, Zimbabwe have been placed in a very tough Pool B that also includes heavy weights South Africa, India, Pakistan, West Indies and Associate nations Ireland and the United Arab Emirates.

The team is also under a new coach Dav Whatmore who only began working with the players a few weeks before the start of the World Cup on February 14.

Masakadza is well aware of the challenge Zimbabwe faces at the World Cup where they will be tested in every match.

“We have to take each game as it comes against those strong nations. At the World Cup each game is different and there’s o room for any mistakes,” he says.

There have been some calls to strip Zimbabwe off its Test status due to poor performance especially on the road and those clamours increased after last year’s disastrous tour to Bangladesh where the southern African country was whitewashed across three Tests and five ODIs.

Many of Zimbabwe’s detractors are saying the country must be relegated to an Associate nation while Ireland is promoted to become a Test nation.

Masakadza feels the World Cup presents a great opportunity for Zimbabwe to put all that talk to bed.

“We need to make sure that we beat Ireland and the UAE thoroughly by wide margins. In the grand scheme of things we can only reach the knock out stage of the competition by winning as many matches as we can,” he says.

“There has been a lot of talk of how Ireland has improved but for us we need to get a positive result against them to ensure that we separate the Test-playing nations from the Associates.”

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