NOT a lot of the hard-working folks in Dutch cricket would have been surprised had the Netherlands defeated Zimbabwe on Thursday to clinch the ODI series with a game to spare.
ENOCK MUCHINJO AT HARARE SPORTS CLUB
They would probably be a bit insulted, given the huge strides and investments they have made to transform this growing sport in a country where football is number one.
All the sweat and sacrifices are there to see, particularly for those within the system.
Certainly for somebody like Patient Charumbira, who was doing television commentary at Harare Sports Club on Thursday as his native Zimbabwe wrapped up a thrilling one-run win over his adopted country, which has given him a home and family over the past five years.
35-year-old Charumbira, a former first-class cricketer from Masvingo, first arrived in the Netherlands in 2018 as a player-coach in the Dutch club set-up, and in his second spell now, he has permanently settled there.
Cricket is now an important part of Dutch sporting culture.
“It’s the same as here (in Zimbabwe), but they are more structured, and they are more organised,” Charumbira told The NewsHawks during a commentary break.
“A lot of their players go to play county cricket in England and in different parts of the world whereas here it’s just (Sikandar) Raza, (Gary) Ballance and maybe (Blessing) Muzarabani. And over here in Netherlands, there is something to play for. So I’m not surprised at all. Zimbabwe hasn’t beaten Netherlands in the past four years in a series, and they (Netherlands) beat South Africa in the last T20 World Cup. They are also transparent in selection.”
A lot of it is owed to the Dutch board’s lack of hesitation in hiring some of the world’s finest cricket brains, as recently happened with South Africans Gary Kirsten and Russell Domingo.
“They have been getting a lot of good guys in the system, guys like Ryan Campbell, Russell Domingo now, and others. People who sit in the dressing room, who oversee the domestic structure, are all experienced people. Look at what happened with Dave (Houghton) when he came to join Zimbabwe, things quickly changed, and this is just one person! These (Dutch) guys bring four, five, six people.”
Apart from the county championship, some of top Dutch players are also gaining recognition in franchise tournaments around the world – examples being the likes of Colin Ackermann, Max O’Dowd and Paul van Meekeren.
Zimbabwe, Charumbira remarked, should also look at this as a way forward.
“We need to have more of what a guy like Reggie (Chakabva) has done, going to play in Australia and face different bowlers,” he said.
“Young guys like ours, the likes of (Clive) Madande, they need to go to England on their own, places like that, to discover themselves instead of having people telling them the kind of players they are.”
Charumbira, a pace bowler also known for his aggressive batting, was never able to break into Zimbabwe’s national side. At 35, he reckons he might still be able to switch allegiance to the orange strip of the Netherlands.
“Obviously Zimbabwe is where the heart is, you can’t change that,” he said. “I’m still playing, I’m 35. I’m one of the fittest guys around, I was one of the fittest people five years ago in Zimbabwe, ask the guys they will tell you ‘Chief’ was fit. If the opportunity to play for Zimbabwe presents itself, I’d love to play. But obviously I don’t live here anymore so that will not be possible. Maybe I could be able to play for the Netherlands, perhaps in a T20 World Cup, or even in a 50-over World Cup.”
After moving to South Africa to pursue coaching badges, and playing at the same time, Charumbira has now found a home in the Netherlands and is enjoying every bit of the country.
“I was in South Africa, playing for the University of Cape Town for four years,” he said. “Ryan Maron (a coach who played first-class cricket for Western Province) brought me over with Tendai Chitongo, in the hope of getting us to study. Tendai ended up studying and I didn’t. Ryan was the head of the cricket school of excellence, which is based at UCT.
“I then went down to Durban. Rob Clift, son of a former Zimbabwean player (Paddy Clift) said ‘I want you to play for Crusaders’. They had been champions for seven years in that area, in a row. When I joined, we won the eighth, then a ninth. In 2018 I was offered a post at a club in Netherlands, as a player-coach. Enoch Nkwe (currently South Africa’s director of cricket) was coming back to SA, and he was leaving the job vacant. They asked me to fill in, and I decided to go. I went to live in Haarlem, playing for Rood-en-Wit, one of the oldest clubs over there. Paul van Meekeren played there as a child. I only had a visa for 90 days so I had to go back to Durban.”
Charumbira then headed back to South Africa, again to take up a player-coaching role.
“When I returned, I was told to go back to Cape Town, to coach Langa Cricket Club, a black development side. So I was working for Western Province. They thought I was perfect fit. Malusi Siboto, Thami Tsolekile, Temba Bavuma all came from that club. I was chosen because of their background, with history of apartheid and stuff. So I was a neutral person, as a person of colour. If it was a white South African person, it would have been different,” commented Charumbira.
“VVV Amsterdam offered me to go back to the Netherlands again in 2019 but Covid has started. I stayed with my girlfriend, who became my wife. She got pregnant and I had to stay there for the birth of our child, Tawananyasha. When Covid relaxed, I started playing again. We bought a house in Leiden, a city close to The Hague, playing for HCC. We are the defending champions.”
Charumbira played lots of club and first-class cricket during his time in Zimbabwe, something he would like to see new generations being exposed to.
“The structures need to be reinvented again. Where are the Under-19s, the development coaches, the Logan Cup ‘B’ league which was played over three days, the CFX Academy, all these things that made sure that cricket was played throughout the year? This is where the coaches Amos (Maungwa), Norbert (Manyande) and George (Tandi) came from. Yes there is something good taking place now, the development tour to India right now, and a lot of domestic cricket being played. But we need to go back to the domestic structure of old. The guys who are in the system now, Hamilton (Masakadza), Elton (Chigumbura), and Tino (Mawoyo), they must press on the culture of the old structures.”
The Dutch way of life perfectly suits a guy like Charumbira – ambitious, hard-working and eager to leave a mark at what he does.
“Economically they are much better,” commented Charumbira. “There is better security in health, jobs, and others. It’s a little expensive that side, but you might not see it because your remuneration covers that.
It’s a first world country, and you’re open-minded to a lot of things. You see the whole world as it is. No one tries to force you to live their way.”
Commonly known as “Chief” back home in Zimbabwe, because his family belongs to the Charumbira chieftainship, the ex-Southern Rocks and Zimbabwe ‘A’ pacer is married to Ira, who is Dutch, and they have a two-year-old daughter Tawananyasha.
“We’ve changed my wife’s name to Ira Charumbira, she has royal blood in her veins, you know,” quipped Charumbira. “I’m heir to the throne!”
If Charumbira secures another commentary gig for the World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe in June and July, he said the two “princesses” will accompany him here, to pay homage to the chieftainship.