It was the spring of April 2000 and South Africa was gripped by the shock that their beloved captain has been alleged of match-fixing, across the border in much peaceful scenario few spectators have gathered at Harare Sports Club to watch final between Zimbabwe’s top teams in their domestic competition Logan Cup.
Mashonaland and Manicaland were taking on each other in 1999-2000 final of the country’s highest first-class competition. There was a buzz that Manicaland was giving the first-class cap to a young black cricketer who was deemed to be an exciting prospect for the future. This 16- year old walked to open the inning with Neil Ferrera and batted for 227 minutes and 170 balls scoring a fine half-century. The teenager still studying in the famous Churchill School was applauded for his temperament.
Next year in February 2001, the boy scored a brilliant hundred for his new team Mashonaland, at 17, he became the first black cricketer to score a hundred in Zimbabwe. Impressed by his mental strength, the selectors called him for the test series against West Indies. On July 29, 2001, at the age of 17 years and 354 days, he went on to become the then youngest centurion in Test Cricket. This boy went on to have the longest international career any Zimbabwean had, it was none other than Hamilton Masakadza.
And it must be said that in order to offer a tribute to Hamilton Masakadza, we’ve got to understand the soul of a man who has stood tall amid thick and thin times Cricket has seen in past 15 years in the Country.
Masakadza made his debut when the country was going among drastic changes. His debut injected a dream among the black community to represent Zimbabwe, however, in order to secure his future Masakadza took a break and went on for studies in South Africa. He returned in late 2004 when the dark days for cricket in Zimbabwe has just begun. His early career resembled somewhat Zimbabwean Cricket, amid one victory there would be a number of moral damaging losses.
Masakadza’s one good score followed with the number of single digits, amid this Zimbabwe took a self-imposed break from Test Cricket for six years. Limited over was the only medium through which cricketers could connect with the rest of the world.
2009 was the breakthrough year for Masakadza, after years of struggle, he managed to achieve consistency in his game. He made his first hundred against Bangladesh and followed it with another two big hundreds against Kenya. While the opposition were weak, but it did a great amount of good to Masakadza, Zimbabwe seem to have found their dependable troika in him, Brendon Taylor, and Sean Williams. His Sublime form in Tri-Series in 2010 was the reason why Zimbabwe made it to the final.
As Zimbabwe returned to Test Cricket in 2011, Masakadza celebrated it with a brilliant century. From July 2014 to Dec 2014 in 15 matches, he scored 5 half-centuries but what was even more appreciable was that he scored a massive 356 runs in 6 innings at 59.33 on turning tracks in Bangladesh, in a Test series that was completely dominated by spinners. At Khulna, he made a brilliant 158 which ended as his best test innings. In 2017 when Zimbabwe won their first-ever series in Sri Lanka, Masakadza led the side from the front making 258 in 5 matches at 51.60 which included a hundred at Hambantota. Later that year, he made a resounding 147 in his last home test against West Indies, the same side he played his first test and made his debut hundred.
Zimbabwe meanwhile continued to slip both in terms of country and as a cricket nation, the nadir came when it was suspended by International Cricket Council (ICC) last month. Cricket in the country was already on the ventilator since March 2004 when 15 white cricketers went on strike as the game has never been the same since. However, with ICC funding, it was ensured that at least the game does not die. Cricket got sufficient funds to fight against all odds. However, the latest decision meant that ICC’s patience with Zimbabwe was running out.
Cricketers knew it was time for them to start searching for an alternative career as there seemed no hope. No one was ready to invest in the game.
Sikandar Raza’s statement to burn the kits was nothing but extreme frustration the players were going through. In such circumstances, Hamilton Masakadza at the age of 36 and after 18 long years of International Cricket, decided to bid adieu to the game he has loved since he was only 14. He knows that Brendon Taylor and Sean Williams might follow him soon.
On 20th September 2019, Hami, walked out for one last time in reds to represent Zimbabwe. His last inning echoed the passion he has had for the game, it was his 71 that helped Zimbabwe to defeat Afghanistan for the first time ever in a T-20 match. A man who never shows his emotions accepted that he was teary-eyed in the morning of the match thinking it to be his last international match.
No tribute to Hamilton Masakadza can be rendered complete without suggesting that for 18 years he served Zimbabwe diligently. For the 313 times, he has stepped on the field wearing his country’s badge fighting for its prestige. For the 645 times, he has walked on to that 22-yard strip to maintain the spirit of the game he has loved for more than two decades. And for unlimited times he has tried his best to bring smiles to the face of his countrymen and cricket lovers across the world.
It’s the right time for a cricketer who played the game with grace to walk down in sunset bowing gracefully.
Tribute to Hamilton Masakadza’s through 18 years of Journey
- Played his first youth game in January 2000 against West Indies, gets out for a duck.
- Played his 1st First Class game for Manicaland against Mashonaland in April 2000 in the final of Logan cup opens and makes 53.
- Made his 1st first-class century for Mashonaland in February 2001.
- Made his debut against West Indies in July 2001 and scores a century becoming then youngest at 17 years 354 days on 29th July 2001.
- Returned to the side in 2004 after taking a break for studies in South Africa.
- Made 3 centuries in just 2 months and becomes first Zimbabwe player to score two 150 plus scores in 2009.
- Captains Zimbabwe in 25 One-Day Internationals, winning none of them.
- Finishes at the age of 36 years and after an 18-year career on 20th September 2019, the longest by a Zimbabwe Cricketer.
- With 2223 runs in 38 tests and 5658 runs in 209 ODIs’, he is the fourth-highest run-getter for his country in both lists.
- He is the highest run-getter in T20I for Zimbabwe with 1662 runs in 66 games.
- He was the country’s first black cricketer to score a century in both first-class and Test Cricket.
- He holds a Marketing Degree from the University of Free State, South Africa
As a long Zimbabwean career comes to an end, but not before seeing all sorts of ups and downs, let’s offer a tribute to Hamilton Masakadza, a man who tried and persisted beyond doubt!