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November 9, 2001
FULL NAME: Charles Kevin Coventry
BORN: 8 March 1983, at Kwekwe
MAJOR TEAMS: Matabeleland. Present Club sides: Bulawayo Athletic Club and Universals
KNOWN AS: Charles Coventry. Nickname: Chappie
BATTING STYLE: Right Hand Bat, Wicket-keeper.
BOWLING STYLE: Leg Breaks
OCCUPATION: None at present
FIRST-CLASS DEBUT: 5-7 January 1999, Matabeleland b Mashonaland, at
Bulawayo Athletic Club
TEST DEBUT: Still awaited
ODI DEBUT: Still awaited
BIOGRAPHY (November 2001)
At the moment, Charles Coventry junior, generally known as `Chappie', is most famous for being the youngest-ever Zimbabwean first-class cricketer. At the age of 15 years and 303 days he played, unexpectedly, for Matabeleland against Mashonaland in the Logan Cup match on his home ground, Bulawayo Athletic Club (BAC), and actually produced the third-highest score of the innings, 33.
Charles shares the same name as his father, who is generally known as Chuck and is a leading Matabeleland umpire, with international experience. Chuck was actually umpiring in this match when Charles made his debut. Charles had taken his cricket kit to the ground - `just in case', he says - and found that due to a mix-up one of the Matabeleland players had not arrived at the start of the match. He was thus thrust into first-class cricket almost by accident, but also because he had been keen and ambitious enough to be ready for his chance and to take it.
He went in to bat at number five as Matabeleland chased a Mashonaland total of 243. The score was 66 for three when he joined Guy Whittall at the crease. "I got hit a few times by Andy Blignaut," he said. He also had to face an array of test-match bowlers in Eddo Brandes, Paul Strang, Everton Matambanadzo and Grant Flower. He had never faced any of them before, and he says that the pacemen were the quickest he had ever faced. Yet he survived to score 33 off 121 balls before being run out.
"Guy Whittall guided me through a lot of my innings," Charles says. "He told me to concentrate on every ball and helped me out with the bowlers." Since then Charles has become a regular player for Matabeleland, opening the innings as he has always done.
It was naturally Chuck who introduced Charles to the game, in their family garden and the nets at BAC. Charles remembers with pleasure the hours they spent together when he was very young, getting a firm grounding in the game. Charles started to play at Whitestone School when in Grade 3, and the following year played for the schools colts team. He spent two years in the colts and two in the senior side; his most memorable performance at Whitestone was when he took a hat-trick bowling leg-breaks. Nowadays he rarely bowls, having taken up wicket-keeping to add to his batting skills.
In his final two years at junior school he represented Matabeleland Schools in the national primary schools cricket week, scoring a couple of fifties but failing to make the national side at that level. He progressed to Christian Brothers' College (CBC) in Bulawayo, and was selected for the national Under-14 team, following through into the Under-16 and Under-19 teams. His best performance here was 94 against Northerns in the South African Schools Coca-Cola Week. He played first-team cricket for CBC for two years, after scoring a century against St John's College of Harare at Under-16 level.
When in Form One at CBC he played club cricket for BAC teams for the first time, beginning with their third team and working his way up quickly. He freely admits the bowlers were too quick for him at that stage. It was at BAC that he was encouraged to take up wicket-keeping, and now considers himself a regular keeper, although Warren Gilmour has kept the gloves at provincial level. He never kept wicket at school, but at national age-group level he became the understudy to Tatenda Taibu.
Charles left school after completing his O-levels at the end of 2000, but did not take up employment immediately, concentrating on his cricket. He applied to join the CFX Academy in 2002. He also enjoyed a tour of Kenya with the Zimbabwe development team. As a batsman he feels his main strength is on the off side. Chuck has continued to play a major role in his development, correcting faults and encouraging him; "He's always been there for me, and chips in money whenever I go on tours."
Charles also names Win Justin-Smith of CBC and the national Under-19 manager who has helped him over the years with coaching, although he resisted his attempts to turn him into a full-time leg-spinner. "Shane Cloete helped me out quite a bit on the Kenya tour," he adds. "There were quite a few things I was doing wrong then. Steve Rhodes has helped me a lot with my wicket-keeping."
Charles made his mark on club cricket on 4 November 2001 with a remarkable innings of 155 for Universals against Alexandra Sports Club in Harare. He was staying in Harare in preparation for the Under-19 tour to South Africa and then to the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand, to save frequent travelling from Bulawayo for training, and so temporarily joined a local club.
"I went out there and decided to be as positive as I could," he says. "And it came off. I enjoyed it. There was a very nice pitch to bat on at Alex, although it started to move around a bit at the end, a bit of turn." The bowling attack was not very testing, though, as the national players were all overseas and none of the home side's bowlers had played first-class cricket. But a batsman still has to take his opportunity when it arrives, and Charles did that with both hands.
Cricket heroes: "As batsmen, Sachin Tendulkar and Steve Waugh."
Toughest opponents: Eddo Brandes. "He swings the ball around and has good height, and I'm not the tallest of people! He's also a very experienced bowler."
Immediate ambitions: "I want to make Zimbabwe A as quickly as possible and hopefully go on to the national side. I want to take up cricket as a career. If I keep on working hard I think I could become a good keeper, but obviously batting is my strength. After the Academy, if I get in, I probably will go back to Matabeleland and do a bit of coaching there. By that stage I hope to be quite close to the Zimbabwe side."
Other sports: "I like to play a bit of squash, and I'd like to start playing golf. I do quite a bit of gym in Bulawayo. I sometimes played rugby at school, but didn't take it seriously at all."
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