ON a different day, in different circumstances, equaling himself to Sikandar Raza would have landed young Shadrick Mandaza in deep trouble with his Zimbabwe Under-20 rugby coach Shaun De Souza.
For De Souza is a strict disciplinarian who strongly believes that a young person, especially one under his care, should earn their own reputation and not jump onto the fame of those that have worked hard for it.
But, in this instance, the hugely gifted Mandaza cannot be seen to be name-dropping: he draws inspiration from Zimbabwe’s cricket superstar, and his coach totally understands that.
Last week when Zimbabwe defeated the West Indies in the ongoing World Cup qualifiers, the rugby field of Harare Sports Club was turned into a fan-park and on his turf, where Mandaza’s little frame weaves magic on Saturday afternoons, he watched his cricket hero guide Zimbabwe to a crucial 35-run win in a man-of-the-match performance.
Then he thought of an idea. On a piece of cardboard box, he wrote his name, Shaddy, comparing himself with the Pakistan-born ace.
The picture, with full credit here, was captured by the photographer of Zimbabwean sports agency, Kyros Sport.
Raza does not know yet if he will be at the World Cup later this year with his fellow Chevrons, but Mandaza is certainly going to the World Rugby Under-20 Trophy in Kenya next week after sealing qualification in April with the Young Sables.
The choice of Raza as a role model is not misplaced because Mandaza is himself a cricketer, an explosive opening batsman for Churchill Boys High. He provided unforgettable entertainment as he completely destroyed bowlers during last year’s St George’s College T20 tournament.
A versatile and natural sportsman, if he decided to play football, in Shaun’s words, “Dynamos or Simba Bhora would fight for his signature.”
A diminutive figure with bags of heart and spirit, it is however rugby that seems to be winning the battle of choice for this pintsized wizard.
Mandaza, a scrumhalf, does not start games for the Young Sables. With captain Panashe Zuze the first choice there, Mandaza becomes an impact player in the backline who comes in as part of the bomb squad, to finish off the opposition.
He understands his team role, and is happy with it.
Mandaza can also play anywhere in the backline, but it is at number 9 where he provides a platform for the team’s style of play. De Souza has a brilliant combination at half-back, with Zuze, not forgetting the utility back cover at 9, Simbarashe Kanyangarara.
You cannot help to wish nothing but the best for somebody like Shaddy – a jolly young fellow – a humble son of a bus driver at his school, who has a burning desire to use his God-given athletic talents transform the life of his family members.
And in Shaun De Souza and Sikandar Raza, both men devout Muslims deeply rooted in faith, he has the perfect mentor and hero.