January 13, 2000

The Forgotten Matambanadzo?

Years ago, when Mark Waugh was trying in vain to win a place in the Australian Test team alongside his twin brother Steve, he was nicknamed Afghanistan (the forgotten Waugh). Everton Matambanadzo also has a twin brother whom many seem to have forgotten.

When they were young, Darlington, the older of the two, generally seemed to take the lead while Everton followed. They began first-class cricket almost together, back in the 1993/94 season while still at school, when Darlington was considered as the more promising of the two. Little was heard of them for a while as they began courses at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare.

But then Everton burst suddenly into the Zimbabwean Test team and, although his career has been erratic since then, he has always been there on the fringes. Darlington, who made his first-class debut in the Logan Cup a match before Everton, has never yet threatened seriously to join him. But he is still playing club cricket, with success; while Everton is still basically a bowler who cannot bat much, Darlington is an all-rounder. John Ward caught up with him at the Harare Sports Club nets and asked him about his future plans.

JW: Darlington, the last time I interviewed you was along with Everton about five years ago, as you were just finishing school and about to go to university. Can you trace your career since then, please?

DM: I went to university for a year to study accounting, but dropped out after that because I wasn't really sure that was what I wanted to be doing. It bored me to death! Then I coached cricket, working as a development coach here for the Zimbabwe Cricket Union for about two years, and now I've just gone back to university. I'm in my first year of three, studying economics, and it's taking up a great deal of my time. It's probably my sort of thing more than accounting. I'll see how my cricket works out, but I'd be interested in going and working in investment banking or stockbroking. Stockbroking is quite heavy; there's a lot of movement and you have to be alert the whole time, and I'd like that sort of job. It's at the local university, and I should finish in the June of 2002.

What happened with my cricket was that I had one or two bad seasons which affected the way I played the game altogether, and I was actually almost on the point of giving it up at one stage. I moved around clubs a lot - Old Hararians, Alex, Sunrise - and now I've gone to Universals, and I feel I've found a place where I really belong. That was part of the problem, I think, that I didn't actually feel I fitted in at a lot of the clubs I was at before. So I'll just wait an see how it progresses from here onwards.

JW: What sort if time are you giving to cricket at present?

DM: I give it four afternoons a week, because most of my afternoons are free. I practise at Universals most of the time, and I come to some of the B team nets. Most of my free time is given to cricket at the moment, but I'll just see how things go.

JW: It's strange, because in our last interview with you and Everton I gathered that you were usually the one who led the way, yet he suddenly got to work on his bowling and leapt into the Test team while you seemed to have disappeared from the picture. What were you actually doing at that time?

DM: I was still playing, but I wasn't having much success at that stage. We went on a development tour to South Africa, and we both had pretty good tournaments. Everton just carried on from there. I came back and made a few runs at Alex, and then just lost form. As I went through the season I found myself hopping between the first and second teams there. I was at Alex for two seasons without much success, then moved to Sunrise, which wasn't the best move of my cricketing career [Sunrise were in the second league]. Now at Universals I think I'm getting things back on track.

JW: Do you consider yourself mainly as a batsman or a bowler now, or an all-rounder?

DM: Yes, I do consider myself an all-rounder.

JW: I wonder if that perhaps was part of the problem, that Everton was concentrating on bowling alone for a while, while you were trying to do both; do you think that may be where you lost a bit of ground?

DM: Not really. I bowl as much as I've always done, but where I lost ground I think was that I didn't develop that mental strength early enough. I had setbacks and didn't know how to handle them. Throughout my cricketing career, for example at high school, it was very easy for me, and I can't ever remember having a loss of form or setbacks. This was the first time of my life that it happened. I had a good first Logan Cup season, and then I lost form and wasn't quite prepared to deal with a situation like that. My game rather went to pieces.

JW: Mr Vayani from overseas who was inquiring after you asked me to ask you when you were going to take the game seriously and if you have any ambitions of playing Test cricket for Zimbabwe.

DM: I've always taken the game seriously. I can't make promises. I have my goals, but my main goal at the moment is to graduate from university. So I'll just see how it goes.

JW: So you're not specifically aiming for the Test team at the moment, then?

DM: I'm just going to play the best cricket I can. Whatever happens, whatever comes out of it, happens. I'll just wait and see.

JW: Perhaps your best chance might be to try to get in as a bowler who can bat.

DM: Perhaps. I like to bat, I like to bowl, I like to play cricket. I'm just going to do that and see what happens. I'm still young - not as young as I used to be, but I am young, so I'm just going to live one day at a time, one game at a time, and just see where it takes me, keep it simple.

JW: What are your best league batting performances?

DM: I made 116, playing for Old Hararians against Alex, when we were bowled out for 160. That's the one that stands out, because I was able to keep it together when everyone else was falling around me, and I got my first league hundred. It was the Old Hararians second team in the Vigne Cup, against the Alex firsts. I also made a century against Queens for Sunrise.

JW: If you can run up some more centuries, that will certainly bring you to the notice of the selectors. And your best bowling performances?

DM: For Old Hararians I took three for 15 in a game against Alex, in 10 overs. I haven't had many big wicket hauls.

JW: It's difficult to get more than three wickets in the 50-over league. What number are you batting at Universals?

DM: I'm opening the batting at the moment; I took over that role from Everton while he was on tour. I got a couple of twenties, which I've got to convert, so hopefully this weekend . . .

JW: That's the best position to make hundreds in 50 overs, so go for it, and let's see a few really big ones! When are you coming on to bowl?

DM: Usually second or third change. We've got David [Mutendera] and Everton who usually take the new ball, and Douglas Hondo and myself come on as change bowlers.

JW: Since you left school, has there been anybody in particular who has given you plenty of help and encouragement?

DM: Everton may be my biggest rival, but he's been the one. He's always believed in me when I doubt myself; he's always encouraged me and pushed me. Sometimes I've needed a push and he was there to do it.

JW: Well, I'll look forward to the day when you are both in the Test team together!