Vusimuzi Sibanda was the very first player from Zimbabwe to ever top 1000 runs in a season © AFP
Vusimuzi Sibanda was the very first player from Zimbabwe to ever top 1000 runs in a season © AFP

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

— Hamlet (Act 1, Scene 5), William Shakespeare.

The year was 1990 and Givemore Makoni, Danmore Padaro, and Stephen Mangongo were trying to start a cricket club for the local children but were finding it difficult to find the space. After a time, Churchill High School offered their facilities. There was a catch, though, as Churchill insisted that the new club be named the Old Winstonians. That did not go down very well with the men looking for a venue, but they had little choice.

In 2001, the name of the club was changed to Takashinga CC. This is the explanation from Givemore Makoni about the change of name: “We have changed the name to identify with ourselves and our community. We are a black club, and ‘Winstonians’ does not identify with us in any way. ‘Takashinga’ means we are brave and we will fight all the way. This symbolizes the black people of Zimbabwe who are no quitters at anything they set their mind on.”

This is what Mangongo, one of the founding fathers of the club has to say about it all: “The major driving force behind the formation of Takashinga was the burning desire to make cricket a mass sport, to play the game at our own locality and make sure those boys who did not have the funds for transport into the city could also enjoy the game. We wanted to take the game to the people and make it accessible.”

A contemporary of Tatenda Taibu, Stuart Matsikenyeri, and Hamilton Masakadza, Vusimuzi ‘Vusi’ Sibanda went to Churchill High School with a scholarship from Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU). He was later a student of CFX academy in 2002. Having joined Takashinga, Sibanda had the privilege of coming under the influence of the likes of Andy Flower who brought a sense of professionalism to the youngsters in the team and who was an inspiration to all.

Under the guidance of Andy Flower, Sibanda gradually developed into an opening batsman. His First-Class career began in 2001-02. Till date, Sibanda has played 125 matches, scoring 7,341 runs at 33.36 with 18 hundreds. He has also taken 38 wickets.

Of these matches, 14 of these have been Tests for Zimbabwe. He has scored 591 Test runs at 21.10 with a highest of 93 and 2 Test fifties.

Sibanda played 4 First-Class matches for CFX Academy in 2002, making his First-Class debut with them against Manicaland in a Logan Cup match played at in 2001-02. He scored 5 and 18.

Till date, Sibanda has played for 11 First-Class teams. His longest association has been with Mid West Rhinos (MWR), for whom he has played 45 matches from 2009-10 to 2014-15, scoring 3,477 runs at 49.67 (which is quite commendable, considering that he usually opens the innings). He has 14 centuries and 10 fifties for them (again, very commendable that the number of his centuries exceeds the number of his fifties).

In his interesting book Inside Edge, Mark Dawson informs us that Sibanda suddenly found a Midas touch in 2009-10 season (almost comparable to Denis Compton and Bill Edrich in the English season of 1947), which included playing the Logan Cup matches for MWR and the Inter-Continental Cup for Zimbabwe. In 14 matches in that season, Sibanda played 14 games in all, scoring 1612 runs, the very first player from Zimbabwe to ever top 1000 runs in a season. He hit 9 centuries in his 26 innings with a highest of 215 and averaged 73.27.

It may be worth looking at Sibanda’s performances of 2009-10 in a little more detail.

Runs Against Tournament
130 Matabeleland Tuskers Logan Cup
209116* Kenya Inter-Continental Cup
107101* Southern Rocks Logan Cup
215 Mountaineers Logan Cup
111 Matabeleland Tuskers Logan Cup
153 Mashonaland Eagles Logan Cup
131 Matabeleland Tuskers Logan Cup

The 111 took him to the 1,000-mark.

As is very well known and documented, the record for highest number of individual centuries in any one season of First-Class cricket still belongs to Denis Compton, who hit 18 centuries in his annus mirabilis of 1947 referred to above. These included Championship games, games against the touring South Africans (who accounted for 6 of them, including 4 in the Tests), and sundry other games.

It is worth noting, however, that Compton had played 30 matches in that season. With 18 counties in the fray, the number of matches played in any domestic season in the British Isles is necessarily much higher than played outside the United Kingdom.

Hitherto, the highest number of individual centuries in a First-Class season outside England has been 8, a record held by several luminaries, as follows:

Batsman M R 100s Season
Don Bradman 9 1296 8 1947-48 in Australia
Denis Compton 17 1781 8 1948-49 in South Africa
Arthur Morris 18 1411 8 1949-50 in South Africa
Neil Harvey 19 1526 8 1949-50 in South Africa
Martin Crowe 11 1676 8 1986-87 in New Zealand
Asif Mujtaba 16 1367 8 1995-96 in Pakistan
VVS Laxman 11 1432 8 1999-00 in India
Michael Bevan 9 1464 8 2004-05 in Australia

Well, the Zimbabwe domestic season of 2009-10 saw a new name being added right at the top of the pile for the most centuries in a First-Class season outside England, with 9. It was a rather shy 26-year old that had upstaged the established legends of the game, in his own quiet and unobtrusive manner.

Sibanda has last First-Class game till date for Mountaineers against his old team MWR at Harare in 2015-16. He scored 59 in the only innings he batted.

Still a relatively young man of 33, Sibanda has many more productive years of playing, and perhaps coaching ahead of him. Let us wish him all success for the future and hope that he will be able to pass on the technical aspects of the game that he had learnt from legends like Flower, and the experience that he has gained from his own years in cricket, to the newer generations of aspiring cricketers from Zimbabwe.

(Pradip Dhole is a retired medical practitioner with a life-long interest in cricket history and statistics)