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Elton Chigumbura: Zimbabwe’s beacon in an uncertain era

Elton Chigumbura © Getty Images
Elton Chigumbura © Getty Images

Elton Chigumbura, born on March 14, 1986,  is one of the dependable players in the Zimbabwean team. Having forced to make his debut at a young age of 18, Chigumbura only bloomed few years later, which led to him getting an opportunity to play with Northamptonshire. Under him, Zimbabwe registered back-to-back ODI victories against India in 2010. Sudatta Mukherjee looks at the life of the matchwinning all-rounder from Zimbabwe.

When he was 15-years-old, Elton Chigumbura made his First-Class debut for Mashonaland. In the Logan Cup 2001-02, while playing for the Mashonaland A, he scored 306 runs and picked up three wickets. The next season, he was promoted to the Mashonaland main team. He scored 126 from two matches that he played. By then, Chigumbura had been part of two Under-19 World Cups. After a great stint in the domestic circuit, Chigumbura was forced to make his debut for Zimbabwe at a tender age of 18. This came in the backdrop of the absence of ‘rebel’ players.

In 2004, he made his Test debut against Sri Lanka. However, he couldn’t perform well. He scored only 14 runs and picked up the wicket of Mahela Jayawardene. And, it didn’t get any beter. He scored five ducks from twelve innings. However, it was against Bangladesh in 2005, that he proved critics that he is not someone to be ignored. He picked up six wickets in the match and scored 71 runs in the first innings, batting at No 8. In the second innings, he registered his first five-wicket haul. Out of the five wickets, one was of the prized scalp of Bangladesh skipper Habibul Bashar, who scored 55. However, Chigumbura’s efforts went in vain as Zimbabwe lost by a large margin of 226 runs.

He played six Tests till 2005 before being affected due to stress injury. By that time, Chigumbura had scored 187 runs and picked up nine wickets. But his hopes dashed when Zimbabwe was barred from playing Test cricket due to crisis between players and the board. Later in 2005, cricket in Zimbabwe was affected by political crisis and only four teams participated in the domestic First-Class tournament. The team kept on playing One-Day Internationals (ODI). Chigumbura found more success in ODI cricket than in the longer format.

His first major performance came while playing against Australia in 2004. In the third ODI, despite Zimbabwe losing the match, he scored 77 runs against the likes of Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz and Glenn McGrath. He followed it up in the next ODI match against England, by scoring an unbeaten 42. Then during the ICC Champions Trophy 2004, he scored 57 against Sri Lanka and took three wickets. He was named the Man of the Match.

Some of his best ODI performances came against Bangladesh. Against Bangladesh, he has scored 949 runs out of his 2998 runs and picked up 27 wickets. He has scored five half-centuries against them. In one of the matches against Bangladesh, Chigumbura scored 70 off 76 deliveries and was involved in a 114-runs partnership for the sixth wicket with Stuart Matsikenyeri. Zimbabwe won the match by two wickets. The all-rounder then travelled to West Indies for the ICC World Cup 2007. The Zimbabwean couldn’t do much as he scored only 61 runs from three matches and picked up six wickets. Ironically, he was the highest wicket taker for the side in the event.

Later that year, Chigumbura delivered his best ODI bowling figures when he took three wickets and scored 38 runs from 34 balls against West Indies at Harare. In what was a shocker of a game, Zimbabwe won the match against West Indies. In March 2010, Chigumbura was signed by Northamptonshire as an overseas player.  He played six Division Two matches for the English side.  In his debut match for the County Championship, he scored 44 in the first innings and picked up four wickets in the Glamorgan’s first innings. In the same match, when Chigumbura removed Dean Cosker, his third wicket of the match, he completed 150 wickets in First-Class matches. Northamptonshire easily registered a 10 wicket victory.

In the second match against Surrey, he picked up another four wickets in the first innings. However, Northamptonshire couldn’t rise up to the occasion and lost the match by an innings and 175 runs. His best bowling figures came in the fourth match against Derbyshire, when he registered five for 92. The right-hand bowler performed more with the ball than the bat in the championship. Later that year, Chigumbura took over the captaincy from Prosper Utseya. He led the team till the ICC World Cup 2011, however, after a below par performance by Zimbabwe in the tournament, he resigned from the post.

In 2011, he was called back into the Test team and memorised the occasion by picking up three wickets against Bangladesh. However, later on he was sidelined due to a knee injury. He returned to action in Tests, scoring 86 against Bangladesh and picking three wickets at Harare in 2013. Chigumbura was one of the stars in the memorable Test series against Pakistan in 2013. He scored 69 in the first innings. Under Brendan Taylor, Zimbabwe won the second Test against Pakistan and drew the series, in what was a historic moment in Zimbabwe’s resurgence in Test against the scrim of players fighting for increment.

Chigumbura has been part of two ICC World Cups and four ICC World T20ss. In Twenty20 cricket, he has one century and six half-centuries from his 102 matches. In T20 internationals, he has scored 464 runs  and picked up 16 wickets from 27 matches. His best T20 performance came against United Arab Emirates in ICC World T20 2014, when he scored an unbeaten 53, to help his team win by five wickets. Chigumbura has played for Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club in Bangladesh, and Sylhet Royals in Bangladesh Premier League.

Chigumbura also runs a cricket academy in Harare, which was founded in 2011, named “Aspired Cricket Academy”. At 28, he has already been a part of the international arena for more than 10 years. Along with skipper Taylor, Chigumbura is one of the players who can help Zimbabwe cricket rise from the ashes.

(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricketCountry. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog and produces weekly posts on new food joints at Whopping Weekends. She played Table Tennis for University of Calcutta. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English serial on her laptop. Her Twitter id is @blackrosegal)

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