The Sunday Mail
Deputy Sports Editor
SLOWLY but surely, Hamilton Masakadza looks to be getting more comfortable in his own skin.
It’s been almost two years since the former international became Zimbabwe Cricket’s director of cricket, and just over two years since he called time on his playing career.
In fact, the day he played his last match, September 20, is still of sentimental value to the 38-year-old.
“Certainly, that day doesn’t go by as any ordinary day, as it marked the end of 17-18 years of international cricket.
“There is a lot of emotion, a lot of feeling, not only on the day but the build-up itself,” Masakadza said.
“It was quite difficult getting through my press conference – the whole series, the presser after and even the build-up.
“And then the realisation, dawning on me, that this is the last series and the last time I would be doing this in this capacity for my country.”
He is one of the lucky few to go out not only on their own terms, but with a bang.
For the legion of Masakadza fans, or ‘Mudhara Hammy’ as he is affectionately called in cricket circles, the image of him walking down the guard of honour after a match-winning 71 in Chattogram is probably still etched in their minds.
He signed off an acclaimed international career in style, leading Zimbabwe’s 156-chase with 71 to snap Afghanistan’s world-record winning streak in T20Is at 12.
His 42-ball knock also helped secure his country’s first-ever victory over the Asians in the shortest format.
For most watching either at the grounds or on television, it was a bitter-sweet moment.
But, for the man himself, it was a memorable end to a memorable career – a career that spanned almost two decades, accumulating 38 Tests, 209 One-Day Internationals and 66 Twenty20 matches.
He scored 2 223 Test runs, 5 658 and 1 662 ODI and T20 runs respectively, and a handful of records.
These included scoring a century on Test debut (119), most innings (61) before first duck and 5000 runs and 50 fielding dismissals.
“Putting in a match-winning performance on the day itself (retirement) was very fulfilling.
“Being the first time we beat Afghanistan in an official T20 international made it a little bit more special,” he said.
That was then.
Masakadza now has new responsibilities as director of cricket, an office he did not have the best of starts in.
Having been elected into office just over a month (October) after retirement, the 38-year-old early efforts to bring club cricket were thwarted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The country was put on lockdown and sport was suspended.
“Covid-19 brought a lot of changes into the way things are run and made it a lot more challenging.
“A lot of changes came into effect, what with the introduction of bio-bubbles and things like that, and it was really tricky.
“It made things difficult and affected the way I settled in as the pandemic made things more challenging.”
He can now take solace in the fact that the country’s vaccination programme seems to be paying dividends.
Sport has since returned, and the country’s recent tour to Ireland and Scotland saw a new crop of young and hungry players raise their hands on the international scene.
Among these are Richard Ngarava, Wesley Madhevere, Milton Shumba and, before them, Dion Myers.
Even his younger brother Wellington Masakadza is starting to live up to his potential. “The youngsters coming through has been a really big plus for us.
“We have deliberately used the T20s as the platform where they can be introduced and express themselves.
“The way they played in Scotland especially was really encouraging; Milton’s knock was brilliant, Ngarava bowled very well throughout the whole series and Wes (Madhevere) has been a revelation.
“Ryan Burl has also been doing well with both bat and ball, while Wellington (Masakadza) is bowling well.
“The senior guys have played their part and complimented the younger guys very well,” he said.
The 38-year-old believes the return of domestic cricket is a very big deal.
“Sport resuming is big and a very welcome change for us.
“We are going to start our domestic cricket pretty soon, but for now we are focusing on hosting the Ireland ladies and then later Bangladesh women.
“These two tours are a build-up to hosting the global qualifiers at the end of the year, and this means the ladies will be very busy.
“On the men’s side, there is the domestic season to look out for.
“However, we are trying to juggle a few fixtures around and could have an Afghanistan tour at the end of the year.
“The Netherlands are also on the books and we will have to see how we can fit them,’’ Masakadza said.