Matsikenyeri's remarkable turnaround

HARARE - Almost two years after announcing he had retired from international cricket, Stuart Matsikenyeri was on the plane yesterday en route to New Zealand for the 2015 World Cup with Zimbabwe.

The last time Matsikenyeri played at the Cricket World Cup, the tournament had four pools with teams playing just three matches in the first round.

Matsikenyeri was a surprise inclusion in Zimbabwe’s 15-man squad for the 2015 edition of the World Cup, which roars into life in Australia and New Zealand on February 14.

The 31-year-old’s last One-Day International for Zimbabwe came way back in May 2012 during the tour of New Zealand.

Since then, Matsikenyeri has been off the radar and following a stint in South Africa where he worked at a school, he returned to Zimbabwe last year to revive his career with the Mutare-based franchise Mountaineers.

It has been remarkable turn-around for the mid-order batsman, whose last played a World Cup game in the West Indies in 2007.

At that tournament, Zimbabwe was drawn in a tough Pool D that also included the hosts, Pakistan and Ireland.

The southern African country failed to progress to the Super Eight stage of the tournament after finishing bottom of the pool following defeats to the West Indies and Pakistan.

The match against Ireland finished in a tie after both sides reached totals of 221 in their allotted 50 overs.

This time around in Australia and New Zealand, Zimbabwe will be in a tough Pool B that also has South Africa, India, Pakistan, the West Indies, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates.

“This is a massive honour to be representing my country once again especially at a World Cup,” Matsikenyeri told the Daily News before the team flew out yesterday.

“Playing at the World Cup for the third time is quite significant for me.

“Playing again at the World Cup is something as a player you never give up on. I never stopped playing cricket, I was playing reasonably competitive cricket so I always had my hand up.

“To be honest it’s always a big to be playing at the World Cup and it’s not something that should be taken very lightly. Since I was a 12-year-old, I told myself that as long as I can play the game I will continue playing.”

The diminutive right-hander also dismissed criticism over his inclusion in the team. Cricket fans took to social networks soon after the touring party was announced, with many aiming at the selectors for “recycling the same old failed players.”

“To be honest, I didn’t make the World Cup squad due to my performance in the Canada game really; I put up good performance throughout the season from franchise,” Matsikenyeri said in reference to his noteworthy performances recently against associate side Canada.

“As long there is an opportunity to play for your country it will always remain your goal as a professional cricketer,” he said.

“So I was pushing hard but did I expect to be called up for this World Cup, I knew it was going to be a tough ride and I had to work hard for it.

“It was an unbelievable feeling to be named in the 15-man squad for the tournament and when my name was confirmed that I was going, it was a massive feeling.”

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