Pakistan in Zimbabwe 2011 August 31, 2011

Mawoyo gains from losing weight

Despite scoring plenty of runs in domestic cricket, Tino Mawoyo's weight kept him out of the national side. Three and a half months after committing to a new fitness plan, Mawoyo is ready to cement his place in the team

Five months ago, Tino Mawoyo rolled out of the 2011 World Cup. He was overweight, unfit and had sustained a tear to an abdominal muscle on the day of Zimbabwe's first warm-up game against South Africa, ruling him out of the global showpiece.

It was rough end to a complicated four-year period for Mawoyo, who had been sprouting runs at domestic level but was caught in a dangerous cocktail of lifestyle issues, which, in a series against New Zealand A, resulted in him being stripped of the A team captaincy for bad behaviour. After initially missing out on World Cup selection, he was included when Sean Ervine pulled out and saw it as a chance to prove his mettle. The injury indicated that rock bottom had been struck.

"It was pretty devastating at the time," Mawoyo told ESPNcricinfo. "I hadn't been included in the original 15 and then I replaced Sean Ervine and I was with the squad for two weeks and got injured just before the tournament started. That's what gutted me the most."

The injury healed quickly and Mawoyo was back on the field two weeks later for his franchise, the Mountaineers. Disappointed at not being able to play any part in the World Cup, Mawoyo was forced to face some harsh realities about his future, starting with something as superficial as the way he looked - which was not the way a sportsman should look.

The battle of the binge has had the better of players such as Samit Patel and Graeme Smith, but for a long time Mawoyo didn't think he would become one its casualties. "It didn't bother me [being overweight] in the beginning because I was scoring runs," he said. "I had the attitude that if I am one of the top of guys, I should be in the team."

He wasn't the first name on the starting XI though, or even any of the other ten names most of the time, and eventually, he was able to admit why. "I thought to myself, in the last few seasons where I've done pretty well, every time my name comes up, I hear the selectors say, 'Tino is overweight,' didn't hear them say 'Tino is not good enough to play,'" he said. It was glaringly obvious what needed to be done. "They said to me straight up, if you're not going to lose weight, you're not going to be in the team, no matter how well you do so I had to do something about it and I have."

Once Mawoyo showed that he was serious about losing weight, Zimbabwe's fitness trainer put him on a strict diet, which included cutting out a lot of carbohydrates. He was also instructed to spend more time in the gym, doing fitness as well as strength training. Three and half months after starting the new program, Mawoyo has lost 16 kilograms and looks every bit a real sportsman. The benefits on the field and in the mind have also been noticeable.

"Moving in the field is a lot easier," he said. "I don't feel as tired anymore and from the training routine that I've got now, I feel if I go for two or three days without a run, something is wrong."

Suddenly, Mawoyo was making a real case for himself. He was not just the Logan Cup's leading run scorer in the 2006-07 season or the Faithwear Metbank one-day competition top man in the 2009-10 season, with an average of over 60. He was not just a former under-19, World Cup captain and a former A captain. He was also an athlete, who was impossible to ignore.

"Moving in the field is a lot easier. I don't feel as tired anymore and from the training routine that I've got now, I feel if I go for two or three days without a run, something is wrong."

Mawoyo showed his abilities in the longer form of the game against New Zealand last year, when he ended up as the series leading run-scorer with 262 runs from three matches. "I didn't expect to play in that series but I played in the warm-up game against my franchise and I got some runs there," he said. It was also an opportunity to show how he would perform against quality, international opposition and one that Mawoyo snatched spectacularly. "It was nice to be part of an A side and play in an international tour, because I hadn't for a long time. I took it as a very big challenge and it was good to get a big score against a team that went to India and did alright in the bowling department."

It was a performance that stood in the mind of the selectors when the return to Test cricket got closer. Mawoyo had to undergo another trial against Australia A, in June this year, where he put on a century stand with Vusi Sibanda in the first match and a 46-run partnership in the second. Mawoyo did not cross the half-century mark in the series but he has passed the test and would play in the Test.

"It was good to see that after having done a little bit of work that they [the selectors] recognised that I had done well," he said, reminiscing about his Test debut, for which he had no nerves when going to bat but he had felt a little anxious two days before the match, when he saw the ground being prepared. "It was even better to be a part of a vital part in the opening partnership with Vusi and to have won the first game back in a long time." Sibanda and Maywoyo opened the Test with 102-run stand with Mawoyo scoring 43. They put on 69 in the second innings, showing signs of a promising opening pair for the future.

Mawoyo believes their complimentary styles of play will serve Zimbabwe well in the future. "Vusi is quite an attacking player, hits the ball well on the back and the front foot and square of the wicket on the back foot," he said. "I am predominantly a front foot player, I push the ball around a little bit more, I don't hit as many boundaries and I think that's a good thing. Vusi can get on with the game on the other side; I don't mind watching the show."

A second Test now awaits Mawoyo, this one against Pakistan, and although he expects the challenge to be bigger, he is looking forward to measuring himself against it. He was one of the Test players who took part in the warm-up game against the Pakistanis which ended on Sunday and scored only 15. He thinks the mere fact that he played in the match will give him an advantage. "I enjoy that they always make me play in the warm-up games and then I can see the bowlers before the actual game." One bowler he did not face was Sohail Tanvir and it's him that Mawoyo is most wary of.

He is also targeting the ODI series which will follow the lone Test as a way of cementing himself as a regular in the team. Mawoyo has played just two ODIs, in 2006 against Bangladesh, although he was part of the ODI squad that hosted Bangladesh recently. He is hoping to translate his Test form into an ODI spot. "If I can get some bigger scores in the Test matches, then I can say to the selectors, look I've put my hand up. I just have to make sure I have something to back me up."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent