The smaller cricket franchises in Zimbabwe have a number of challenges to overcome. They do receive funding from Zimbabwe Cricket, but they are necessarily reliant on ‘imported’ players, mainly from Mashonaland, to maintain strong teams and they are limited in the sponsorship they can obtain from local businesses in the small centres where they operate.
The Mountaineers franchise, based in Mutare, are not allowing these handicaps to deter them from developing cricket in their region, which also includes centres as far west as Marondera. They are at present involved in a Mountaineers public awareness programme, which includes “meet the schools” trips by the current playing squad. On 20 September they visited Sakubva High School in Mutare, and on 27 September similar visits are planned to Sheni Primary School and Dangamvura High School. The players meet the school cricketers, teachers and parents, doing such activities as giving autographs and holding a brief coaching clinic.
Gary Brent was appointed coach of Mountaineers a year ago, and shortly afterwards his uncle Jon – both former national players – accepted the job of CEO. Immediately the two began their task of transforming Mountaineers cricket. The off-season saw no let-up, as Gary, the area manager Farai Chari and the franchise’s development coaches carried out basic cricket education programmes with about 70 teachers from underprivileged schools in the Marondera, Rusape and Mutare districts.
The teachers are given basic cricket knowledge so that they can then return and impart it to their pupils. Jon says, “This, we believe, will initially impact about 700 to 800 children, and we intend to carry out another two or three programmes this term. This has had a second benefit, too, in that Gary has used our young coaches to carry out these courses under his supervision and has now given them the skill to go out ontheir own to carry on with these programmes.”
During the off-season Gary also carried out another Development Coach Education Programme, aimed at raising the skill levels of their coaches and preparing them for attaining their Level 2 coaching facilities. “We will be working on the practicalities of how we can get these Level 2 courses done with our coaches and players,” says Jon.
He admits there are challenges this season in particular due to serious financial constraints, but Mountaineers will not be daunted by those difficulties. With the Brent family at the helm, Mountaineers cricket is likely to grow and to go from strength to strength.