Wesley Madhevere is the future for Zimbabwe cricket

Zimbabwe's Wesley Madhevere plays a shot during the third Twenty20 match against Pakistan at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium on November 10, 2020. AFP

It’s not the kind of list on which any aspiring young batsman wants to see his name but the two latest additions to a list which contains some of cricket’s most illustrious names are Afghanistan’s Abdul Malik and Zimbabwe’s Wesley Madhevere.

In the old scorebook format it would simply be a dot on the paper and, as the old saying goes, “they didn’t trouble the scorers.” Poor Abdul, 22 years of age and making his Test debut, succumbed to the very first ball of the first Test between Afghanistan and Zimbabwe in the vast open area of the Zayed Cricket Stadium. Not to be outdone, the same fate befell the 20-year-old Wesley Madhevere – out first ball on his Test debut.

It’s a cruel game isn’t it? This affair in the simmering crucible of Abu Dhabi lasted only two days with Zimbabwe taking the spoils but only after Malik managed to record a pair of spectacles. At least Madhevere didn’t have to go through that trauma again because he wasn’t required to bat second innings.

Malik would be advised not to dwell on his misfortune; rather study the careers of those with whom he shares the same experience – Graham Gooch, Marvan Atapattu and Saeed Anwar – and those who failed to trouble the scorers on their Test debut include Richie Richardson, Leonard Hutton, Gundappa Vishwanath, Jimmy Cook, Chris Smith and Sunil Ambris.

It may also have been an inauspicious Test debut for Madhevere but he is the future for Zimbabwe cricket. I am not basing this statement on any set of statistics, although some numbers come into play, but it is the manner with which he plays his cricket that has convinced me that over the next 10 years Zimbabwe would be wise to make him the jewel in their crown. He is the bright shining gem that has been unearthed from the red soil of Zimbabwe.

Madhevere was 16 when fellow commentator Ian Bishop remarked how he was delighted by the young talents we were watching in the ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup in Bangladesh in 2016, a tournament won by a West Indies team brimming with unbridled expression. The Player of the Tournament award went to Mehedi Hasan of Bangladesh, a player whose sheer joy of performing with both bat and ball was evident in everything he did then and still does now.

Madhevere plays the same way as Mehedi, with a freedom of expression that makes you sit up and watch their every move. Unspoilt by over-coaching, it is a statement on their innate skills and a moniker that each wears with pride for his respective country.

I didn’t see the half-century in only his second ODI, in Sylhet in March 2020. Madhevere scored 52 for Zimbabwe and he also bowled seven overs of off-spin, taking 1-38 in a Bangladesh total of 322/8 with Tamim Iqbal making a match-winning 158.

What I did see in late October 2020 in Rawalpindi was the confident young Madhevere striding to the middle in the first of three ODIs against a Pakistan attack that included Shaheen Shah Afridi and Wahab Riaz, bowlers of serious pace and skill, neither of whom could prevent the 20-year-old compile a classy half-century as wickets fell the other end. His 55 in 61 balls included seven boundaries with a repertoire of strokes all around the field that had Pakistan rethinking tactics whilst he was in the middle. In the end, Shaheen (5-49) and Wahab (4-41, including the wicket of Madhevere) ended any hopes of a Zimbabwe win, but young Madhevere left his mark.

Further evidence of his batting pedigree came in the first T20, again in Rawalpindi, a month late, when he scored 70 not out from just 48 balls with nine fours and a six, with a strike rate of 145. Madhevere’s innings shone when others – Brendan Taylor (20), captain Cham Chibhabha (0), Sean Williams (25), Sikandar Raza (7) – struggled to deal with the Pakistan attack.

He’ll never forget his Test debut in Abu Dhabi – a long flight and a long walk for a first baller – but his time will come and he has 10 years and more to put the record straight. In Williams, Zimbabwe’s captain and one of the country’s most devoted stalwarts, young Wesley has wise counsel in which to learn from.

To borrow words from Ian Bishop in the case of this young Zimbabwean gem, “remember the name” because he is the future for Zimbabwe: Wesley Madhevere. His stats will follow. – Source: The National Sports