By John Ward
Tafadzwa Muzarawetu is a fine example of the best of Zimbabwe’s young cricketers.
He is courteous, humble, hard-working, intelligent and passionate, a man who plays the game in the right spirit. In only his second first-class match, playing for Mashonaland Eagles against hosts Southern Rocks in Masvingo, at the age of 22, he took eight wickets for only 27 runs in the first innings, in 18 overs of persistent swing and seam bowling, the best analysis ever recorded by a Zimbabwean bowler for eight wickets in the same innings.
“Taffy”, as his team-mates know him, was born in Harare in 1991. He first learned his cricket in Grade 2 or 3 at Glen View II Primary School.
“Back then I was a bit fatter and I was a batsman, not knowing that one day I would become a seamer,” Taffy says. Today he is a tall athletic figure, very fit and with no excess mass at all.
Kudakwashe Maunze, a club cricketer, was the coach responsible for igniting Taffy’s first interest in cricket at that young age, while watching the game on television also played its part. For high school, he spent a year at Bernard Mizeki College in Marondera and then moved to Ellis Robins High School in Harare.
“Back then I wasn’t yet a bowler, I was still doing my batting,” says Taffy, “not knowing that one day I would become a seamer. I started to lose weight through the physical effort of cricket and I was slimmer and fitter than I was, and I grew taller. One of my school captains told me that I was definitely growing tall so I should learn to bowl. It was difficult to mix the two, and at the moment I have really shifted from batting to bowling.”
When he reached Form Three, Taffy joined a local club, Glenshire. “That’s when I became really strong and learned much of my bowling, how to bowl with the new ball and everything,” he says. He gives credit to the club coach, Leonard Nyamburu, for helping him to develop his bowling.
Unlike so many of Zimbabwe’s most promising young cricketers, Taffy was never in the running for any of the national or even provincial age-group teams. He just turned in consistently good performances for Glenshire in the Vigne Cup, and one season finished as the top wicket-taker in this competition – 27 or more wickets, he thinks - winning a place in the Mashonaland Eagles B side.
The B teams unfortunately were dissolved two or three seasons ago for financial reasons, but Taffy still forced his way last season into the Mashonaland Eagles team, although just for one match. He took a wicket in each innings in a heavy defeat at the hands of MidWest Rhinos, and after that suffered an injury that kept him out for much of the season. He returned to the team for the Masvingo match this season – and immediately struck gold with a fine bowling performance, notable for his consistently good line and length at a fair pace, with a bit of swing and seam movement that accounted for his eight victims.
What does he think his main attributes are as a bowler? “I really think my main strengths as a bowler are to hit a good length and make the batsmen play,” he says. “I was swinging the ball well. Mostly I swing the ball out, but I get a few to nip back in. As a seamer you need to have that.”
Taffy seemed rather overawed by his remarkable figures – and so were the batsmen who faced him.
“I have never done that, even at club level,” he says. “It was actually my first time to take eight. That was really, really special. It meant a lot. I was over the moon.”
Taffy is level-headed with regard to the future and is keeping his feet on the ground. “Basically I would like to take this performance which I did yesterday in the first innings up a gear and be very consistent in taking wickets again and again. I am still young, and I want to be tight and bowl quick. That’s my main aim.”
Ten wickets in a match would be a very special feat. “Today [in the second innings] I bowled five overs, I think. The pitch has changed a bit. It is a bit harder to nip the ball around, but I will work around it to see if I can get two or three wickets in the second innings.”
Taffy did start his cricket as a batsman, so does he feel he has a future as an all-rounder, perhaps? “Yeah, yeah, I took this decision yesterday when the captain was asking me if I could go in as night-watchman, and I said yeah, I could go in as night-watchman. I have a solid defence so I have no worries about going in as night-watchman, and even facing the ball early in the morning I was very comfortable. It was just very unfortunate that I was run out. My partner called wrongly on that one. But that’s just cricket, the way it is.
“As times go on I think I will [become an all-rounder]. I am not so bad at batting. I know what to do when the ball comes. I think as time goes on, as I play more first-class cricket, I will become an all-rounder.”
Cricket is Taffy’s life, and when he is not playing he is coaching schoolboys at Westridge High School. He has wise advice for all young players: “I have worked so hard to get here where I am and this is just my second match. I would like to say to those youngsters who are coming up, ‘Do not throw it away but work hard each and every day. This cricket thing doesn’t just come easily. It takes time for you to get into the system each and every day. The other thing is that you should enjoy what you are doing. That’s the secret. Enjoy what you are doing, give a hundred per cent to it and you will definitely go up. Working hard is the key.”
“I love my cricket,” he avers. “I’ve said to myself since I’ve grown up that cricket is going to take care of me for the rest of my life. When I have a family in years to come, cricket should take care of that family. So I’m dedicated to the sport and I enjoy my cricket.”
We wish him all the best, as another promising career starts to get off the ground. Taffy Muzarawetu is a player to watch for the future!