Everton Matambanadzo

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* Full Name: Everton Matambanadzo * Born: 13 April 1976, Salisbury (now Harare) * Major teams: Zimbabwe (1996/97-), Mashonaland Under-24 / Young Mashonaland (1993/94-1995/96), Mashonaland (1996/97- ). Present club team: Old Hararians (Harare). * Known as: Everton Matambanadzo * Batting Style: Right Hand Bat * Bowling Style: Right Arm Fast Medium * Occupation: University Student * Test Debut: Second Test v Pakistan, at Faisalabad, 1996/97 * ODI Debut: 3 November 1996, v Pakistan, at Peshawar

Biography (January 1997)

Everton Matambanadzo is an example of Zimbabwe's current ability to take promising young cricketers almost out of nowhere, and pitch them into international cricket, with success. Strictly speaking, he has not come from nowhere, as he has been regarded as a promising player for several seasons, but certainly at the end of last season nobody thought his international debut was imminent.

Everton is a twin, about five minutes younger than his brother Darlington. For years their careers have run almost parallel courses, with perhaps Darlington being considered as the more promising of the two, until recently. They are not identical, which is a relief for scorers, spectators and reporters: most noticeably, Everton has the darker complexion of the two and prefers to wear a West-Indian maroon cap on the field. They have no cricketing background at home, which makes their rise to prominence more surprising and commendable.

Although they are quite happy to be twins and enjoy each other's company, they are independent enough to choose their individual paths at times. Darlington was first attracted to cricket early in junior school -- they attended Sharon School, in Harare -- while Everton's primary interest at that time was in swimming. Nevertheless he did play, although he did not even bowl until he went to high school at Eaglesvale. He was actually Sharon's wicketkeeper for two years, having volunteered when there was no obvious candidate for the job. His brother, however, vouches for the high quality of his keeping.

When they arrived at Eaglesvale, Darlington found himself the only real pace bowler among the Form Ones, and it was then that Everton was successfully encouraged to try out his arm. They did nothing outstanding in their Under-13 or early Under-14 years, being content to enjoy the game without a great deal of determination or discipline. The turning point came when Mr Iain ('Poll') Campbell, of Lilfordia School and father of the current Zimbabwe captain Alistair, watched them play a match at Eaglesvale, recognised their potential, and took the trouble to chat with them, give them hints, and encourage them to take the game more seriously.

Everton began to work harder at his bowling now, increased his pace and began to take more wickets. He did not receive representative honours at school as early as Darlington, though, and it was not until his final two years that he made a representative side, when both brothers were selected for the national schools team to attend the cricket week in South Africa. Everton enjoyed considerable success, although the first week provided him with perhaps his worst moment in cricket when, in a match against Northern Transvaal, he dropped a vital catch in the final overs of the match, which may have cost his team victory.

By now, Darlington was a batsman who could bowl, while Everton considered himself simply as a bowler. At school he recalls taking 6/20 against Watershed, a performance which snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, and 7/14 against Lomagundi College. He was encouraged, though, by Mr Barry Lake, the Eaglesvale coach, also to take his batting more seriously.

The brothers were already playing first-class cricket; in 1993/94, the Logan Cup's first season as a first-class competition, Darlington was selected for the first match played by Grant Flower's Mashonaland Under-24 team, while Everton joined him a match later, to play against the senior Mashonaland side. His bowling was still very wild and woolly at times, but he was fatally underestimated by some of the senior players. Mark Burmester and David Brain both fell to superb yorkers, while Andy Flower chased a very wide ball to be caught in the covers. He took five wickets in the match, and added another three in the next match, against Mashonaland Country Districts, where he also completed a fine batting double of 32 not out and 17. Both innings were vital to the result of the match, and his team would probably have lost without them.

This earned him selection for the Zimbabwe B team to play against the touring English county Worcestershire, although it must be admitted that this team was not at full strength. He did not do particularly well, but it did show that the selectors had already earmarked him as a player for the future.

Everton admits that he found the first year after leaving school and starting at the University very hard. He is now in his final year of a three-year course in business studies, and for much of his time he found it difficult to adjust to the change of life-style and at the same time keep in good practice at cricket. He and Darlington, also at the university studying economics, tried to revive the university cricket club, but have not had much success yet. For two seasons, both played first-class cricket irregularly, with little real success, and hopes for a bright future for the two of them began to fade. People were asking what had happened to the Matambanadzo brothers, if they thought to ask at all.

Things changed for Everton during the Zimbabwean winter of 1996. Having adjusted to university life, he now decided it was time to get working on his cricket again in a big way. Darlington, who is taking a more difficult and time-consuming course, was not able to join him for much of the time. Everton spent most of the winter in the gym, getting himself fully fit, and also bowled at the Zimbabwe Cricket Academy nets, four days a week and twice a day. As he kept practising, he found he was improving noticeably, and was also able to bowl for much longer spells than he had previously. In the opening match of the season, against the touring Western Province side, his results did not set the world on fire, but the improvement in his pace, accuracy and stamina was fully evident.

One day, as he was at the nets, the newly appointed Zimbabwean captain Alistair Campbell told him that he would be going to Pakistan with the national side. Everton thought at first that this would be purely to help out as a net bowler, and was stunned to find himself as a full member of the team. The injury to Heath Streak and unavailability of Eddo Brandes had given him an unexpected chance. He walked around in a daze for the next couple of weeks, unable to believe in his quick promotion. Even now, he did not expect to be selected to play in a Test or one-day international.

He enjoyed Pakistan, once he had adjusted to a very different country. He found the people there very friendly, and was impressed by their love for the game. Then Henry Olonga broke down with a groin injury, and Everton unexpectedly found himself chosen for the Second Test. Again, he felt stunned, and it took a long time to sink in. He found himself shaking with nerves on the morning of the match, but felt better once he was actually called upon to bowl. Although he was not as accurate as he would have liked, he felt happy with his first spell in Test cricket. He particularly remembers his first wicket: it was an inswinger to the left-handed Aamer Sohail, who played back and was trapped lbw. Later on he also dismissed the other opener Saeed Anwar, but not before he had scored 81. With the return of Streak, Brandes and Olonga, Everton did not get the chance to play for the full national team on the recent England tour. In the immediate future, his opportunities may well be restricted, as there is an unprecedented number of quality pace bowlers all clamouring for selection. He will find his work cut out to establish a regular place in the side, but he has shown during his recent months of training that he has the determination to do that.

Andy Flower says, "Everton has shown that he can bowl well, although he has problems with his accuracy and that is primarily why he is not a regular. He's quick enough and he swings the ball, but he's not accurate enough to bowl sustained spells."

Guy Whittall says, "He's a great man, a really funny guy. He has a good outswinger and is becoming quicker. He just needs a bit more experience and coaching to become one of our top bowlers." ----------------------------------------------------------------------------