BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
At the beginning all she was trying to do was to run away from athletics, which was compulsory at Seke High 1 in Chitungwiza.
And cricket provided a safe haven for Lady Chevron star Anesu Mushangwe.
Early this month the Zimbabwe women cricket star was a recipient of multiple accolades at the South Australian Cricket Association (SACA) awards ceremony.
The 24-year-old cricketer starred with bat and ball for Glenelg District Cricket and helped them gain promotion to the SACA Grade A cricket league.
Mushangwe has done extremely well for the Lady Chevrons in T20Is since making her debut in January 2019 while she also claimed individual accolades playing in England for Hursley Park Cricket Club last year.
She reflected on her recent exploits in Australia as well as the cricket journey thus far in a wide-ranging interview with The Sports Hub.
“I am happy with my achievements and the awards I have won here in Australia. I am grateful to my coach and teammates, who helped me achieve. There are also a number of people back in Zimbabwe, who supported me,” said Mushangwe from her Australian base.
“When the club invited me to play for them they made it clear that they wanted me to help them gain promotion. I am happy that I managed to help them achieve that target,” she added.
The Zimbabwean won five awards including the club’s most outstanding player, the South Australia Lyn Fullstone Prize, best bowler at the club, MVP award as well as best bowler in the league.
It’s been an interesting journey for the all-rounder, who has claimed 23 wickets in 14 matches for the national team since she first came in contact with the game as a Form 2 student in Chitungwiza.
“It all started at school, Seke High 1 in Chitungwiza. I hated athletics, but then it was compulsory at school so I would find a hiding place with cricket, but I was not interested in the sport.
“It’s only that there was less running but that’s when I met people like Christabel Chatonzwa, who is now a fellow national team player, coaches Walter Musakwa, Alois Tichana and Sylvester Mutusva, among others. These are some of the people who taught me how to play the game,” Mushangwe revealed.
When she was in Form 2, Mushangwe was selected in the
Under-19 national team for a South African tour, but could not travel because she did not have a passport.
And at first her family felt the sport was a distraction from school so she had to put it on hold when she was preparing for her ‘O’ Level and ‘A’ Level exams.
Besides, cricket was not her dream profession back then.
“As a kid I always wanted to become a doctor, but I failed Mathematics at ‘O’ Level so the dream went up in smoke. After getting into an Arts class in high school, my dream was to pursue law. I applied for it, but I didn’t get the place, that is when I decided to focus more on a cricket career.
Mushangwe rekindled her romance with the game when she enrolled at Midlands State University (MSU) for a degree in international relations.
“I started concentrating on my game when I completed my A’ Levels and I actually started a girls’ cricket team at MSU when I went there. Interestingly, we became champions in the universities competition, which was great,” she said.
The Lady Chevron star graduated two years ago before making her T20I debut against Namibia at the beginning of last year as she emerged as the second most expensive bowler for Zimbabwe.
However, Zimbabwe won the match by six wickets.
Mushangwe spoke of how she failed as a medium pacer and at 20 she made the switch to eventually become a world-class leg spinner.
“I used to be a medium pacer, but because of my height disadvantage I could not generate any pace. It was just not working and at one point Christabel Chatonzwa had to manhandle me.
“I had to try leg spin also because there were no leg spinners in the team. I got a lot of help from Simon Muzerengi, Tafadzwa Muzarawetu and Robin Brown. So far I am happy with my leg spin, but I feel I can do better. I am an attack-minded bowler so I want to get wickets each time I bowl,” she said.
While her bowling figures are far more impressive, Mushangwe believes teams love her batting the most in comparison.
She is predominantly used as a number five batter in the national team while for Glenelg District she batted as number four and delivered more often than not.
Mushangwe finished the season with 302 runs at an average of 75.50 while also claiming 40 wickets with an impressive average of 12.05.
The cricket dream for the former MSU student was merely to be one of the best players to don the Lady Chevron jersey and she appears to have achieved it already.
But now, her focus is to become one of the best in the world.
“Right now, my aim is to make the top 10 international bowling rankings. The last time I was active with the national team I rose up to number 18, but have since slid down the ladder due to inactivity,” Mushangwe said.
Mushangwe was supposed to return to Zimbabwe in April at the end of the season in Australia, but she was stranded following travel restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I should have come back to Zimbabwe, but because of the Covid-19 situation I am forced to remain here. I will continue playing here and I will return when things get back to normal,” she said
As she prepares for the new season in Australia, Mushangwe has also taken the opportunity to attain her coaching badges and has already completed her Level O, which is the introduction to the cricket, Level 1 community coaching course and the representative coaching part of the Level 2 certificate.