Hamilton Masakadza named Zimbabwe captain
"It is very exciting, because it is a big honour to lead your country," Masakadza told the Sunday News. "It is an exciting challenge I am looking forward to. I was not exactly expecting this. I didn't think I was going to be one of the front runners. I have been waiting for my turn for such a long time, I never thought it was going to come, I thought it had evaded me."
A long-term vice-captain, Masakadza has also filled in as captain in 12 internationals when injury or absence ruled out the regular skipper. He also has extensive captaincy experience at domestic level, having led Easterns under the old domestic system and Mountaineers when Zimbabwe adopted the franchise system.
Cremer is new to vice-captaincy at national level, but was a senior member of the Mid West Rhinos for several years before his hiatus from the game, and has skippered the Zimbabwe Board XI and provincial sides on occasion. Both men are also in sparkling form in the game's shortest format, with Masakadza currently ranked eighth in the T20 batting rankings, while Cremer is ranked fifth as a bowler.
"Both Masakadza and Cremer are senior players who have shown their leadership abilities working with previous captains," ZC managing director Wilfred Mukondiwa said. "We have no doubt they will be successful in their substantive posts, which come at a time when both are in the top 10 of the ICC T20I Player Rankings for batsmen and bowlers respectively."
Masakadza's ascent to the captaincy is all the more remarkable because he was dropped from the national squad in October after a middling year with the bat. He was recalled for Zimbabwe's trip to Sharjah, scoring his fourth ODI hundred during the tour. His returns from Zimbabwe's four-match T20 series were even more impressive, with Masakadza scoring 222 runs to take the record for most T20 runs in a bilateral series and became the first Zimbabwean to reach 3,000 runs in T20 cricket.
"I never for a moment thought my career was over, I still have a lot in me," Masakadza said. "I still have a few years. At the moment I want to play through to the next 50 over World Cup."
Once thought too slow even for ODI cricket early in his career, Masakadza has evolved into a stroke-playing batsman across all formats. "Naturally I play a slow game, I start my innings slowly and when T20 cricket came I thought that was the end of my cricket. I have been working hard on my game and processes. I have always worked on my game and fitness. When I was dropped I did not feel out of touch. I didn't think I was struggling with my game that time, but still I went and worked hard, something I have always done in my career."
The Zimbabwe administration is working on securing short format fixtures for the national side ahead of the World T20 in March, which will be Masakadza's first major challenge as captain. Zimbabwe will play Hong Kong, Scotland and Afghanistan in a qualifying round ahead of the tournament proper, and Masakadza's form is likely to be vital for his team.
"Our chances are high," Masakadza said. "On paper we are better than those teams. I hope to maintain my form and win games for the team."
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town