The Sunday Mail
ANESU Mushangwe can be best described as an accidental superstar.
She is that girl who once viewed cricket as nothing more than a convenient refuge from other sports, but inevitably grew to love it and now cannot imagine life without it.
Mushangwe did briefly abandon the sport to work as a maid to raise funds to further her education.
She, however, later made a return and never looked back. Now she is based in Australia, plying her trade for Glenelg Cricket Club, and is one of the more recognisable faces in the Lady Chevrons.
The Sunday Mail Sport recently caught up with the 24-year-old spinner and top-order batswoman.
The cricketer’s journey began during her primary school days in Greendale, before moving to Chinembiri in Chitungwiza, for her Grade Seven.
“During those days, everyone was supposed to join at least one sporting discipline at school, so I was forced into athletics. I hated running,” said Mushangwe.
“To escape athletics, I decided to join cricket after noticing that the sport had few, quiet players, so it would be a good hiding spot for me.”
Her plan was to show up, observe, and stay in the background.
It was round about that time, back in 2008, that her mother relocated to South Africa, forcing her to transfer schools and enrol at Chinembiri Primary in Chitungwiza.
The following year, she proceeded to Seke One High School and found herself in the cricket team. And, like before, she was simply there to make the numbers and avoid the track events. Fortunately or unfortunately, she began to take an interest in the game.
Her interest later turned into love after she realised she had a knack for it.
Her rise to prominence, both at school and district level, was quick, which led to her first big call-up with the national Under-19 team in 2014.
“By then, my life revolved around cricket. I would run away from home just to attend training and (I) remember the day I actually went for the national team trials.
“I jumped over the precast wall and got cut by pieces of glass on top of the wall. The trials were tough. I was in pain and had to hide the wounds in case I would be sent home.”
South Africa was supposed to be her first tour, but she did not have a passport.
She was dropped from the squad.
She still feels betrayed by the then coach, who called her the night before departure, telling her to pack and meet the team at the pick-up point the following morning.
“Thinking he had a plan B, I was there early the following morning, only to be left crying as the bus left without me.
“I have not gotten over that experience. I do not know why he phoned me the night before.
“On my way back home, I was in tears and what hurt me the most was that my father refused to help with money to secure a passport. He could only give me school fees.”
Mushangwe then put her cricket dream on ice for two years, opting to further her studies.
She passed seven subjects at Ordinary Level, but had challenges proceeding to Advanced Level, owing to financial constraints.
She got employed as a maid at a local pre-school and from her wages, she managed to pay her way through A-Level.
After passing her A-Levels, she enrolled at Midlands State University for a degree in International Relations.
It was during her varsity days that she got back to playing cricket and batted her way into the Lady Chevrons.
“It was tough, but I remained focused. With time, I was a regular in the team,” she said. “My first senior tour was Sri Lanka, but never got game time . . . I felt deprived and would cry about it.
“The rest is history, but it feels awesome that I am now one of the regular faces in the team,” she said.
Just after university, she got an offer from United Kingdom’s Hursley Park Cricket Club, before moving to Glenelg Club in Australia.
She became a vital cog in their promotion into League A.
Despite struggling during her first days, Mushangwe has grown to become one of the Lady Chevron’s top players and best bowler.
Never Lindu, an accredited Level One cricket coach, met Mushangwe at training during her Form One days at Seke One High School and the gaffer saw her rare talent and took Mushangwe under his wing.
“I took her through personal training and by then, I was also beefing up my skills, so I was happy unearthing such potential for development,” said Lindu.
“She progressed well and without notice, she turned her back on cricket. I was hurt and looked forward to the day she would return because unlike many other players, I could see her passion for the sport. When she bounced back, I was happy for her. We still find time to communicate, and seeing her doing well in Australia makes me proud.”