Birthday special: Hamilton Masakadza – Zimbabwe’s all-season batsman

Cricket unfolds numerous hair-raising tales of triumphs. The fans go through a torrent of emotions by the many things that happen on the 22 yards and beyond. Thus, the day Hamilton Masakadza walked off the field for the final time, Zimbabwe cricket and probably the entire cricketing fraternity witnessed not just a player but an entire era of the game pass by. He smashed a 42-ball 71 against Afghanistan at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, Chattogram, which is highest by a batter in T20I cricket in his farewell match.

18 years ago, Masakadza had become the then youngest player to score a century on Test debut. These two performances marked the beginning and end of his career. In between these two extremes, he held the fort for the Zimbabwean cricket team.

Giving lease of life to Zimbabwe Cricket

With the backdrop of political turmoil and uncertainties in the sport, Hamilton Masakadza still managed to play for the country for 18 long years. His career coincided with all the governance complexities in the country but the man stood strong through them to lead Zimbabwe.

Masakadza averaged 30.03 in Tests, 27.74 in ODIs, and 25.4 in Twenty20 Internationals but his performances often came when the team was staring down the barrel. He was one of Zimbabwe’s powerful openers in the white ball and a trusted top-order batter in red-ball cricket. When Zimbabwe returned to Test cricket in 2011, Masakadza was the only batter who provided some resistance hitting his second Test century. The team couldn’t win but he stood out for the side.

He took a break from his career for his studies but after his return, he registered the scores of unbeaten 156 and 178 in home ODI series against Kenya in 2009. Doing this he became the first Zimbabwean to hit two scores of 150 or plus in ODIs, and also the first cricketer to do so. He totalled 467 runs in the ODI series which remained a world record for nine years. He retired as the highest run-getter for Zimbabwe in the shortest format with 1600 runs in T20Is.

India’s tour to Zimbabwe in June 2016 made Masakadza the first Zimbabwean cricketer to play in 50 T20 International matches. In Tests and ODIs, he has scored 2222 and 5658 runs respectively. Amidst the waves of difficulties, he became the captain of Zimbabwe’s Ship and led it to beautiful shores. His legacy is his impact on cricket that has gone on to inspire many in the country to hold the willow and make a difference.

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