January 19, 2002

Alester Maregwede - Biography

FULL NAME: Alester Maregwede
BORN: 5 August 1981, at Harare
MAJOR TEAMS: Mashonaland A (1997/98), CFX Academy (1999/2000). Present club team: Takashinga.
KNOWN AS: Alester Maregwede. Nickname: Nedge
BOWLING STYLE: Right Arm Medium Pace; wicket-keeper
OCCUPATION: CFX Academy student

FIRST-CLASS DEBUT: 28-30 August 1997, Mashonaland A v Mashonaland, at Harare South Country Club
TEST DEBUT: Still awaited
ODI DEBUT: Still awaited

BIOGRAPHY (updated January 2002)

Alester Maregwede is a promising product of the ZCU township development scheme who has been earmarked for success for several years as a quality batsman who can also keep wicket. He graduated through the CFX Academy and has given further evidence of his ability in the Logan Cup tournament.

Alester grew up in the Harare township of Highfield and attended Chipembere Primary School, where the ZCU were involved in coaching cricket. He was also involved in soccer, tennis and swimming, and had already been chosen for a junior tennis squad when his interest in cricket began to develop at the age of about 11. ZCU coaches Stephen Mangongo and Bruce Makovah regularly came round to the school to offer cricket coaching, and Alester was quick to join in. He still names these as the two coaches who have helped him the most during his career. He had actually first joined at a younger age, but gave it up for a year due to other sports before returning.

He remembers the first match he played, against a High Glen Select team, when he was given the job of keeping wicket, for no other reason than that he was the school soccer goalkeeper, he thinks. He batted at number seven and was most determined to prove that he was a better batsman than this, which he did with an innings of 42 after the top order had failed.

He continued to impress with further good batting performances. He remembers one occasion when he was named as captain of a team to take part in the high-density suburbs tournament, which also included Glen Norah and Glen View, two matches against each team. Highfield scraped through to the final, against Glen View, by means of their run rate. They had not won the tournament for five years but this time, under Alester's captaincy, they succeeded. In his last year at primary school he captained the High Glen side, a combination of these teams, and they won every game.

In his final year he played for the high-density team in the national primary schools cricket week, and remembers scoring 82 not out against Eastern Districts. He was offered a scholarship to attend Prince Edward High School by the Zimbabwe Cricket Union, but ended up going to Churchill instead. He needed to board at school because his family had recently moved to Chiredzi, but there were no boarding places available at Prince Edward. The late Peter Sharples, cricket master at Churchill, heard about his problem and found him a place as a boarder at Churchill.

He was a year older than the other first-formers, so he began playing for the Under-15 team. He found it difficult to score runs to start with, but was encouraged by the spirit of the team, where everybody wanted him to do well. He actually found his main role in the team as a leg-spinner at that time. He was still being watched carefully by the selectors, and was chosen to captain a Zimbabwe Development team to tour South Africa in that year. He regained his batting form, averaging 64, and his team only lost one of its six games. As a result of that, he was promoted to the school first team while still in Form One, as a wicket-keeper again, and an opening batsman.

This was the first of five years in the Churchill first team, right up to the time when he joined the Academy. His best year was 1997, when he scored four centuries in consecutive matches, including his highest score of 125 against St John's College. While still in Form One he was selected for the Zimbabwe Under-16 team, and later for the Under-19 team, playing three years for both teams. He was rarely able to do justice to his ability with the Under-16s, but was more successful with the Under-19s, especially during the South African Schools Week where he had a highest score of 68 against Border and an average of 42. In the 1997 Under-19 World Cup in South Africa he scored 64 against Australia.

While still at school he played at times for Mashonaland select teams against visiting teams to the country, including Northamptonshire and Western Province, and also for the Zimbabwe development team to play in the Zone 6 tournament in Namibia. He had just turned 16 when he made his first-class debut, selected for a weakened Mashonaland A team to play the full Mashonaland side in a Logan Cup match. He opened the batting and kept wicket, doing not at all badly with scores of 5 and 19 against bowlers all with international experience.

Alester first played second-league club cricket in 1994, when he was actually still in his final year at junior school. His team was the Churchill-based Hungwe team that later became Winstonians, and now Takashinga. He was appointed team captain while still at school, although when Andy Flower joined the club he took over when available in view of his much greater experience. His highest score for them is 210 not out in a second-league match against a Harare Sports Club side.

In 1996 the former Surrey and West Indian batsman Monte Lynch visited Zimbabwe, and Alester enjoyed his cheerful presence and remembers clearly the tips and coaching points he passed on to him.

The year of 1999 was not one of Alester's best years, as he struggled with his form, and feels he was lucky to enjoy good trials that gained him selection to the South African Schools Week and the Under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka. His highest score on those tours, though, was only 36, against the Americas. The national selectors invited him to join the CFX Academy for 2000, and after a lot of thought he decided to forego his final year at school and take up the offer, realizing it was vital if he was to go further in the game.

He was very happy with the progress he has made at the Academy. After his struggles during 1999 he was delighted to record two fifties, 59 against Mashonaland and 52 against Midlands. He averaged 41 in his four matches, but the feeling also remains that he needs to develop the ability to go on to make really big scores more regularly. His main memory two years later was of victory over Midlands in Kwekwe, which was still at that time the Academy's only first-class victory, and his 52 as opener was vital.

Alester now bowls medium-paced seamers, having changed from leg-spin in Form Two, realizing that the most effective bowlers in one-day cricket are those who just trundle in and bowl at the wicket, line and length. He feels his bowling is under-rated, and remembers taking six wickets for 25 in a match for Churchill against a touring school team from South Africa. At the moment, though, he is more in demand as a wicket-keeper, and he performed in that role in the Zimbabwe A tour of Sri Lanka in April and May 2000, and later in matches for the Zimbabwe Board XI and Mashonaland A. He also remembers an occasion when his bowling won a match for his school.

He says, "I had to bowl the last over since I had taken up the responsibility of captain. We hadn't won against St George's for more than ten years, and I thought I had to take up the chance myself, I couldn't leave it to anyone else. They could put me away. I was on a hat-trick during those four wickets, and I had removed their captain, who was Travis Friend and he was a very difficult opponent that year because he was on a roll and made runs. For me to take him out early on was a good morale-booster for my team, and for me as well."

After leaving the Academy he coached and played in Mashonaland, but had a moderate Logan Cup season for Mashonaland A in 2000/01, scoring just one fifty. He moved into a house rented for him by the Mashonaland Board. At club level he spent two years at Universals to gain first-league experience, scoring four fifties in six innings at one stage, but has now moved back to Takashinga now that they too have earned first-league status. He was unable to play much for them during 2001/02 due to Board XI and Zimbabwe A commitments.

One disadvantage he finds at Takashinga is that he cannot always keep wicket, as he did at Universals, as Tatenda Taibu is the regular club keeper. However, quite frequently midway through the opposing innings Taibu hands over the gloves to Alester and comes on to bowl his skiddy little seamers, often with considerable success. Also, due to the desire to encourage younger players, he has found himself batting at number five or six, but he hopes circumstances will allow him to return to his former position as opener.

Alester toured Kenya with Zimbabwe A, but had mixed experiences, finding it difficult to score runs much of the time. "But I think it was a good learning curve for me," he says. "I learned from the Kenyans' approach to the game and it really made me change. Whatever the situation, you've got to be positive, as Steve Tikolo and Maurice Odumbe showed us, no matter what the pitch is doing or what the bowler is doing. You've always got to be on top of the situation when you are batting."

"we need to go on more tours like the one to Kenya," Alester says. "It doesn't matter if we lose, but I think that's the way Zimbabwe are going to get through their bad patch. A lot of guys need to learn and to get exposure. I really think when we are playing the Board XI matches it's weak in that we don't get to learn more, as we do against stiffer opposition. We need to play West Indies A, England A or Australia A on a regular basis. Then it's easier for us when we play Test cricket and we've actually had that kind of cricket behind us."

As a batsman Alester likes to drive, with perhaps the off-drive as the most handsome of his strokes. He used to pull a great deal, but has used the stroke less frequently in recent years, although he can still pull and cut the short ball. He usually opens the batting, but is happy to bat at any position in the order and try to adapt his game to the needs of the side if necessary. When not keeping wicket, he likes to field in the slips or in the covers - again, he finds Steve Waugh an inspiration for cover fielding.

He has suffered at times from ankle injuries, one playing rugby, and more recently during the World Cup in Sri Lanka. However, this is not expected to be a long-standing problem.

His family still live in Chiredzi, but at times when they are in Harare they are keen to support him and watch him play. "They are keen on my career and they always look up in the paper or from the TV about what I have done," he says.

Cricket heroes: "Every time I bat I always think of the great concentration of particular batsmen, particularly like Steve Waugh, both as a batsman and as a captain. He's got all it takes to be a cricketer and that's what I admire about him. Whatever he does, it's something you need to learn from him. I look at Andy Flower as well because he's come to help me, and he's also an example of great concentration in the game of cricket, which is exactly what you need. Looking at those great people really drives me to do as well."

Most difficult opponent: "It's very difficult to tell, because I have got out to every type of bowler. But I find it difficult batting against bowlers who swing or cut the ball back in to me. I have a problem of falling over, which is one thing I've been trying to work on. Spinners at times give me problems, especially an off-spinner. I'm not really keen on using my feet to them. A leg-spinner would not cause a problem because I can always play them off my crease. I've struggled with Travis Friend. He's quite quick and at times bowls leg-cutters. I've struggled with Mluleki Nkala, who has got me out a few times as well. If you're a batsman he really works you hard until he gets you out."

Immediate ambitions: "To get into the national side. Obviously that means more work, and getting more runs as well. It's up to me to do that."

Proudest achievement to date: "My best memory of all was to get selected for the Mashonaland A side in the Logan Cup, and also when I scored 64 against Australia in the World Cup. It was the best moment for me because it was the first game of the tournament and everyone was looking to me as the main guy."

Best friends in cricket: "I really get on with everyone else in the team. I've never really had an enemy or anyone I've disliked. When I started playing cricket for the development side I was the captain and Andrew Stone was the vice-captain, and we started working as partners together. We have been playing cricket together since we started, and now we have joined the Academy together as well. He has been one of my best friends."

Other qualifications: "I'm trying to get into business management in the near future."

Other sports: "At school level I played first-team hockey and rugby, and I've also been in the athletics team for sprints."

Other interests: "When I was young I always liked travelling, and with cricket now I get to travel a lot. Travelling is one of my hobbies, and with cricket they go hand in hand. Whenever I'm not playing cricket I enjoy travelling, although it's quite strenuous. I get to see and meet different kinds of people."