Liam Roche dreams big

HARARE - Although he is still a greenhorn in the game, Liam Roche is determined to follow in the footsteps taken by many before him and one day graduate from schoolboy cricket to the Test arena.

The bulk of the current national cricketers can trace their roots back to the formative years when Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) was still running a robust development programme in schools around the country.

Cricketers like Hamilton Masakadza, Sean Williams, Chris Mpofu, Craig Ervine and captain Graeme Cremer all horned their skills on the competitive school circuit before graduating to full internationals.

Roche is walking a similar path to these players as the St George’s College student is currently the captain of the Zimbabwe U19 side.

The 17-year-old named man-of-the-series in the just-ended whitewash series win over Namibia U19 at Harare Sports Club following his exploits with both bat and ball.

Roche, an all-rounder, was a thorn in the flesh for the Namibian batting line-up with his off-spin which saw him emerge as the best bowler of the series with nine wickets.

His best figure was a four wicket haul for 32 runs from nine overs in the third match which the hosts romped 171-run victory.

When he got the opportunity to bat, Roche was able to play some beautiful shots in particular in the fifth and final match when he scored an unbeaten 96 from 83 deliveries.

During the series, he batted in three innings with a healthy average of 49.33.  

Although he was one of the standout performers, Roche is not the one to seek personal glory.

“I think we did well as a team, I think we improved every single day as a team. There were certain individuals that stood out; Milton (Shumba) with the bat the other day and (Dion) Myers who is only a youngster only new to the team,” Roche told the Daily News on Sunday of the series victory over Namibia.

“I think there’s still a lot of work to be done especially when we are playing bigger teams and towards the World Cup.”

Both Shumba and Myers notched half centuries in the fourth match Zimbabwe won by 171 runs.

Batting at number three, the left-handed Shumba scored 50 from 80 while Myers a right hander weighed in with 56 from 82 deliveries batting at number four.

Naturally with a solid career with the junior national teams, Roche is hoping to keep on working hard so that one day he can make the transition to a fully-fletched international.

“I think its lots of hard work, training with coach (Steve) Mangongo; he’s been pushing us and I think we are heading in the right direction. My target is hopefully to play for our national team one day,” he said.

Roche is an integral part of a two-year project Mangongo is working on towards next year’s ICC U19 World Cup in New Zealand.

“Basically I think we are a very well balanced side we have had batters doing their job upfront scoring runs consistently and the spinners department has been absolutely phenomenal,” Mangongo said.

“They have managed to bowl very tight in middle periods and also at the end taking wickets.

“... what we are doing is putting together a World Cup project and what we have done is a two-year programme where we are willing to make sure by the time we get to New Zealand we will have a solid unit.”

Last year, Zimbabwe recorded a 3-2 series win over Namibia in the reverse fixture in Windhoek with last week’s impressive whitewash win making Mangongo believe his youthful side is heading in the right direction ahead of the World Cup.

“You can see we have done it stage by stage to make sure that we have covered all corners of the country and we have looked at all players who are available,” Mangongo said.

“It’s an ongoing process whereby we are trying to make sure that the talented kids are given enough coaching over a period of time unlike in the past where we used to assemble three months before World Cup.

“So this time ZC has taken the route of making sure that we leave no stone unturned in terms of the preparations and game time because our school calendar.

“Our youth cricket in Zimbabwe, we are lucky to play eight games in a year but what we have done with this programme is to put down the international goal of playing 40 games before the World Cup.”

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