Rising Stars ready to soar

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Rising Stars completed their five-month attachment in England where they excelled against some County cricket sides.

And upon their return to Zimbabwe last month, the youthful side, a brainchild of former Test captain and current convener of selectors Tatenda Taibu, were drafted into the premier First Class four-day competition, the Logan Cup.

Their debut match was against a star-studded Mid West Rhinos made up of national team players such as captain Graeme Cremer, returning batsman Brendan Taylor, Solomon Mire, Peter Moyo and Malcolm Waller as well as fringe players Tendai Chisoro, Mike Chinouya and Prince Masvaura.

To their credit, they however, did not melt at the sight of these imposing players but instead they displayed a fantastic brand of cricket that saw them getting their opponents all out for 293 runs in their first innings.

Our Sports Writer Austin  Karonga sat down with the Rising Stars head coach Stuart Matsikenyeri an ex-national team player during the four-day game at Kwekwe Sports Club to find out about the team’s five-month attachment in the UK and where to now as they wind up their year’s internship in the inaugural project. Below are excerpts of the interview.

Q: Can you share with us your experiences in the maiden journey to England?

A: It was five months that we spent in the UK and it was good. We played 40 games in the time that we were there and I think for us that is the biggest thing because we believe that the biggest teacher of cricket is to play cricket itself therefore the fact that we were fortunate enough to get all those matches in was brilliant.

Q: What was the emphasis as you took to the field in all those 40 games?

A: The way the academy is run has been a wholesome thing it’s been about developing these young cricketers to come into a place like this you see now they are playing First Class cricket and hopefully develop them to make national teams going forward.

It’s been about developing a responsible member of the community. It’s been about developing young men who are going to be able to look after themselves going forward more than just playing cricket so there has been a lot of success as far as that is concerned.

Q: Any challenges that the youngsters faced in terms of adapting to the England conditions?

A: I think we were very blessed with this group of youngsters because they responded quite well to everything that was thrown at them even in places where we had a couple of challenges they just shrugged it off and they managed to keep their minds on the goal that was at hand. To be fair I think we came back with a better young-men than we took out to England.

Q: What are some of those challenges that you encountered in the UK?

A: It was the first time that we have obviously done a trip like this so they would have been areas where we came short here and there for example when we got there we had not quite managed to secure our transportation as we would have wanted so it was one of those moments where we had to hire a few smaller cars where we ideally wanted boys to travel in a bus.

That in itself meant the management staff had to do all of those shuttling and stuff but the boys just stuck to it and its one of those things.

Q: How much support did you get from people in the UK during your stay there?

A: I think we got support that took us a long way and you know things like being able to play matches against County sides its something that we will forever be grateful for because that is quality opposition on a cricketing level. Being accorded that opportunity to play against cricketers who are already playing professional cricket in the UK in their conditions was quite good.

Q: The presence of former national team coach Alan Butcher at some of your matches, how important was that?

A: That sort of support is something that gave not only the boys but myself, Tatenda, Alex and Nic the guys that were involved in the management a big boost because you know a man of Butcher’s experience who has already obviously coached our national side and has been in and around the game for a long time that help is invaluable so it was really nice having a person like him coming.

The boys had an opportunity to interact with Simon Jones who bowled for England (18 Tests, 8 ODIs and 35 T20s) over a period of time and did very well in one of the Ashes series.

He was so giving of information after the game that we played against him he sat with the boys for a long time and they spoke, they were a lot of lessons taken out of that. On our tour we had an opportunity to play against five Kiwis who were on standby to play in the Champions Trophy.

That was Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, Ish Sodhi and two others. It was just quality and we had support from all corners of England really and international  support as it were so all of those things put together really helped the project to be a success.

Q: What stood the most for you during the tour from a coaching point of view?

A: For me as a coach  on a cricketing side its just the way the boys matured through the tour for example I mentioned earlier the opportunity to play against County sides.

We started slowly against that type of opposition and the more we went and spoke cricket to them, the more the life coach (Alec Gezi) and mental fitness coach (Nic) worked on them especially on the mental side of things as Tatenda and I were working on them on the cricketing skills the better they got through the tour up to a stage where we beat a very strong Surrey XI Second side.

Brilliant performances from some of the boys individually but as a team they jelled really nicely up to a point where we went to play a two-day game in

Derby shire in very challenging conditions and their life coach on tour had always been teaching them about facing challenges and taking them head on, they made decisions that otherwise us coaches wouldn’t have made but they wanted to take on a serious challenge and they managed to come out with a really brilliant game.

And to their credit against Derbyshire — Derbyshire played on the back-foot in the 2-day game against them so its hard to point out one highlight and i think the wholesomeness of the boy that we got out of the tour was brilliant.

Q: Now you just made your debut in the Logan Cup what does that mean for the team and your expectations for this competition?

A: It means a lot for the boys and to us as the management staff because First Class cricket is something that we all aspire to play and we are here doing it.

And the boys are getting an opportunity to play against the likes of Brendan Taylor, Graeme Cremer, the Hamilton Masakadzas, your Elton Chigumburas and these are people who are the heroes they get to share the field with them and show off their skills with that so it’s quite big.

Q: What’s next for the boys as they move towards the last part of their year’s journey in the academy?

A: The national academy has to got a responsibility obviously to develop young cricketers going forward so these boys when they are done with the season their goal is obviously to get signed by other franchises going forward and we are going to have to go into the Under 19 setup and maybe some other boys that could have missed out at U19 and take on a new class we are going to start all over again with a view of making a massive contribution towards Zimbabwe Cricket at international level.

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