Role model unto himself

Hamilton Masikadza got the plot all wrong.

The 17-year-old student from Churchill School in Harare scored a century against the West Indies on debut and, in so doing, messed up the whole plan.

Hamilton was supposed to be amongst the young generation of black cricketers to benefit from the deeds and exploits of Henry Olonga, except that Henry never quite set the world alight as often as he was supposed to.

When Masikadza reached three figures at Harare Sports Club on Sunday, he instantly jumped the queue from impressionable youth to lead role model for every young black cricketer in Zimbabwe.

His father, Kingston, had no clue about cricket until a couple of years ago (about five, in fact) when his son was plucked from the masses attending a coaching clinic and singled out for special attention.

Former Zimbabwe captain, coach, selector and just-about-everything-else, Dave Houghton, paid the young man special attention from a very early age.

Now, director of the country’s academy, Houghton can take special pride in an extraordinary achievement.

A month ago Houghton told me that Masikadza was “an unbelievable talent – you will hear his name in the years to come, I promise you,” he said over dinner.

“We all hope so, Dave”, I replied “but there are so many youngsters that we talk about at this age. You can’t say how they’ll be at 20 or 21.”

“I promise you,” said Houghton. “I have worked with this guy. He will break records.”

He started on Sunday as the youngest debut Test century-maker in the history of the game. The achievement, in itself, is enough reason to celebrate. But the emotion at the ground is barely capable of translation into words.

Just two days after the ZCU announced sweeping quotas at every level of the game, including the Test team, both black and white players felt humiliated, embarrassed and hurt. None of them, it seemed, wanted to be segregated by skin colour.

When Masikadza reached three figures, captain Heath Streak was clearly seen choking back the tears on the balcony as he stood to applaud.

Other players could not contain the emotion. In the commentary box, Houghton talked his way through a box of Kleenex as his adopted, cricketing ‘son’ surpassed even his coach’s crazy expectations. Everyone was in floods of tears. Joy, relief, disbelief and, maybe, even a little anger and frustration.

When Masikadza reached the dressing room at the close of play, unbeaten on 115, it was – by all accounts – a miracle he survived uninjured after the ferocity of the hugs and backslaps from his team mates. They bear-hugged the little man to within a gasp of his life.

Quotas are still necessary, this side of the border and that, but my colleagues in Zimbabwe tell me that Sunday was one of the happiest days of cricket they have ever seen. A day on which politics and scandal were utterly and completely forgotten and the future suddenly looked brighter than anyone had ever hoped. What a day.

Here’s to more of the same down south.

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