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Waddington Mwayenga (middle) was joint wicket-taker at the 2002 Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand. He is seen here celebrating a wicket against Namibia with teammates Stuart Matsikenyeri, Elton Chigumbura, Brendan Taylor, Sean Ervine and skipper Tatenda Taibu - most of them future stars of Zimbabwe's senior team.


It’s time to implement a back-to-basics approach again



QUITE odd indeed was how a colleague responded to a post of mine on Tuesday announcing that Stephen Mangongo had been appointed head coach of a representative side going by the name of Zimbabwe Under-25s.


Odd in that, in this professional era, 25-year-olds and much younger have become accomplished professional cricketers already: why an Under-25 side for developmental purposes in this day and age?

Well, I cannot myself explain what ZC is trying to do with that particular age group, or what the composition of the side will be – let’s wait and see.

Mangongo, I hear from those behind the initiative, is trying to unearth the new Tatenda Taibus, the new Brendan Taylors, perhaps the next express pace bowlers from this country.

It brings to my attention a special project in 2002 when Mangongo and a namesake, Englishman Steve Rhodes, brought out something truly special out of a much younger age-group of Zimbabwean cricketers.

The two men were co-coaches at the Under-19 World Cup and most of us will have fond memories of that tournament. I’d like to imagine what we witnessed back then is somewhat similar to what our own Steve is trying to replicate now, 22 years later in his new role with ZC.

Our history-making captain Taibu was the player-of-the-tournament back then in 2002 in a competition that had future world-class stars like Mashrafe Mortaza, Suresh Raina, Ross Taylor, Hashim Amla, Dwayne Bravo: you name them.

A prodigious 16-year-old talent by the name of Brendan Taylor, a future kingpin of the Zimbabwe side, smashed a magnificent century as the young African side defeated Nepal in the Plate final of that Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand.

As for the express pace bowler, Zimbabwe’s Waddington Mwayenga, with 16 scalps, was the tournament’s joint-leading wicket-taker alongside Australian Xavier Doherty.

We all know Mangongo has been in and around Zimbabwe’s structures before, including the top position of head coach of the senior team, and like others he has been sacked when results weren’t satisfactory.

But we’re back to square one, again. Zimbabwean cricket finds itself desperately needing to find new purpose, and new solutions.

It’s time to go back to the basics and rekindle the values of old, by turning to those that once created a sustainable future for us, a once promising future that miserably now looks damn bleak and in tatters.

But we know all those that once made us dare to dream, and we can’t afford the luxury of having those brains outside the system.

The other Steve is back, and I’d like to see the other one too. Or an equivalent, at least.