Cricket stars inspire team with disabilities

HARARE - Judging by the reception the Zimbabwe National Cricket (ZC) team got during their tour of the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) in Ruwa last week, there is no doubt team captain Hamilton Masakadza remains a popular figure in local cricket circles.

The Zimbabwe Cricket team took time to donate cricket kits while holding a coaching clinic with the newly-established Zimbabwe Differently Abled Cricket (Zidac) for people living with disabilities.

And for Masakadza though, it’s understandable as he has been in the trenches for a while enough to be part of the ZC furniture hence his popularity everywhere he goes.

South Africa-bound senior men’s team enjoyed cricketing moments with their physically-challenged counterparts who are England bound for the 2019 World Cup for people with disabilities next year.

“Obviously it’s very encouraging and very good for the team to come out and spend time with these guys. It’s what we live for, it’s part of what we play the game for, to have moments like these where we can just share the game even with differently-abled and just to come and spend time with them, giving them a few tips,” Masakadza said during the visit in Ruwa.

“It encourages them most and I think this is the most important thing and it was really nice to see their enthusiasm and to see how much they love the game and how much they are enjoying it. They only started playing in June or July but the way that the guys are playing they have caught on so quickly because they are so enthusiastic about the game, so it’s been a really good outing for the boys and it’s been a really good outing for us to come out here as a team and to just come out and spend some time here.”

About the reception he and the team got in Ruwa, he said: “Obviously I have been around for a while, part of the furniture at ZC now so its something I have gotten accustomed to,” Masakadza quipped.

“But like I said the biggest thing is that we managed to come out as a team and just to see the reaction that these guys had towards us is very encouraging even for us as well. It helps us keep going and it also encourages us as individuals.”

Masakadza handed over cricket equipment to the NRC officials and team representatives that included bats, helmets and balls.

Other members of the national team present included wicketkeeper batsmen Brendan Taylor, Regis Chakabva, Peter Moor and Ryan Burl, all-rounders Sean Williams and Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, batsman Craig Ervine, seamer Kyle Jarvis and spinners Wellington Masakadza, Brandon Mavuta and John Nyumbu.

National team bowling coach and analyst Stanley Chioza as well as human resources and corporate affairs Nesta Vaki, Christian Chiketa, cricket operations and national teams’ manager and Darlington Majonga ZC spokesperson were all present at this historic event.

Zidac vice chairperson and technical development manager Alexander Mkandla said his organisation founded in May this year is the national supreme governing board for cricket for all from kindergarten to the elderly with different disabilities.

“The groups of differently-abled persons represented under Zidac are deaf/ hearing impaired cricket, blind/visually impaired, physically-challenged, intellectually-challenged and wheelchair including table cricket. Each group has their own umbrella association which is affiliated to Zidac and shall have their chairperson automatically sitting on the national governing board,” Mkandla said.

“The main purpose of Zidac is to develop the sport of cricket from grassroots to elite level throughout Zimbabwe and coordinate development programmes from local to international competitions (World Cup) including hosting.”

Zimbabwe is the second African country after South Africa playing cricket for the differently-abled among others such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, England, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, New Zealand and Australia.

NRC sports director Amos Nyamutata said there has been a high uptake of the game since its introduction in May.

“The Ruwa Rehab is a government centre set up to oversee that the disabled are empowered both physically and educationally so that they can compete at a professional level. The cricket programme started early this year and we are pleased that the students we have here are competent enough to grasp the concepts of the game,” Myamutata said.

“Cricket is special in that it is viewed or perceived as a game or the elite but it has now come down to the disabled community, showing that even the disabled can play cricket and it is going to empower them.”

Snydon Soko, the acting director for disability affairs in the ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, said the partnership with ZC is set to empower not only the differently-abled players and officials, but the community of Ruwa and the nation at large.

“This is indeed is history in the making. In the past cricket was considered as a sport for the elite. However, it is worth commending the efforts by ZC for taking the sport to all the corners of the country…The NRC Ruwa is a beneficiary of this programme as we bare testimony this afternoon,” Soko said.

“As part of inclusiveness, sports for students with disabilities was introduced at the NRC Ruwa and these include athletics, wheelchair basketball, handball to name but a few. Cricket is the latest sport to be introduced through partnership with Zidac.

“This donation will inspire both students at this centre and others in the neighbouring Ruwa community to take up cricket seriously. Globally, attention is being placed on mainstreaming disability through sustainable development goals.”

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