Musakanda after consistency

HARARE - Twenty-one-year-old Tarisai Musakanda has had a fair share of people delivering different news that has shaped his life and at times thrown him off balance.

One of those occasions was earlier this year when he walked into CFX Cricket Academy on a routine practice day only to be told by his Mid West Rhinos coach Robin Brown that he had just made the Zimbabwe A squad touring India.

He genuinely thought he was the victim of a joke as he was still warming up to first-class and list A cricket.

“As soon as I got to the nets my franchise coach just said congrats you made the Zim A squad to India . . . I froze and I didn’t believe it,” he recalls.

“It took me time to even change into my batting gear because I had never thought I was good enough and I thought I wasn’t ready for the big stage. The whole of that practice session I batted thinking of what I was going to do in India.”

In India he averaged 46.5 in the four-day format and 15 in the unofficial ODIs.

Perhaps not the electrifying debut he had hoped for but one that would give him plenty of experience.

A few months and some domestic franchise matches later, averaging 25.60 runs in the Logan Cup and 33.93 in the Pro 50 competition, national selectors decide to give Musakanda another run with the A side against the touring Pakistan A side.

This time, he received the news via a text message from coach Douglas Hondo. And unlike his first call-up, he was ready for the occasion.

True to motivation, the Masvingo-born batsman got off the mark with half a century; the only ray of hope on a measly Zimbabwean scorecard that saw the hosts post a paltry 197 in the first List A match at Harare Sports Club last month.

Pakistan A went on to make easy work of that target, winning the match by six wickets and five overs to spare.

In the second match, Musakanda was run out on 40 as Zimbabwe was bundled out for a dejecting 151 in failed pursuit of 340.

The third match is probably his most memorable as he went on to score an unbeaten 130-ball 99, which included seven fours to guide Zimbabwe to a 105-run win.

However, the highlight of the hosts’ innings came in the final over when Musakanda unselfishly nudged for a single the penultimate ball to give Sikandar Raza the strike for the final delivery.

It was an ultimate sacrifice as it denied Musakanda a maiden List A century.

“When I was on 99, I honestly wasn’t sure whether I should be or not, I kept on looking at the scorecard and the previous game Pakistan A had made 339. So I just didn’t think I had done a good job...but later after winning the game I was relieved,” he says.

Turning 22 on October 31, Musakanda may well still need to smoothen the rough edges of his game but his future as a professional cricketer for his country appears certain.

However, he enters the fray amidst strife that often rocks the local game.

Contractual issues and non-payment of dues have been largely responsible in shaping the decision of other talented Zimbabwe players who have chosen to pursue a career abroad.

Musakanda says he is not too bothered by that and just wants to concentrate on the game and insists “this is an opportunity to do something that I love and make the most of it.”

It is, however, odd that only four years ago it seemed the right-hand batsmen had been destined to play for the Zimbabwe National Rugby team following exceptional exploits as a spritely backline player for the country’s age-group sides.

At Prince Edward School, he had been a beneficiary of an exchange programme between the Tigers and England’s Oswestry School where he horned his skills.

Musakanda was picked for that programme following a fairy tale year in 2012 as a backline player in the maroon and green hoops.

He had played for the Junior Sables at the World Rugby Under-20 Trophy qualifiers and had been part of the 2012 Under-18 Craven Week side.

“  . . . when I came back (from England), I had intentions of going back but after I made the 2014 U19 Cricket World Cup squad, I realised my opportunities were on the cricket side,” he says.

Perhaps a loss for the Sables and a gain for the Zimbabwe cricket?

“Hahaha you never know,” he says.

“I don’t know if I was good enough but I would back myself to pick a spot if I had the opportunity,” he adds.

For now the goal “is to stay consistent and always try to put my team in a good position to win games.”

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