April 6, 2001

Clement Mahachi: a biography

FULL NAME: Clement Mahachi
BORN: 27 September 1979, at Bulawayo
MAJOR TEAMS: CFX Academy (1999/2000), Matabeleland (2000/01). Present club side: MacDonald Club (Bulawayo)
KNOWN AS: Clement Mahachi. Nickname: `Donkey' - a translation of Mahachi
BOWLING STYLE: Left Arm Medium Pace
OCCUPATION: CFX Academy student

FIRST-CLASS DEBUT: 3-5 March 2000, CFX Academy v Mashonaland, at Country Club
TEST DEBUT: Still awaited
ODI DEBUT: Still awaited

BIOGRAPHY (updated April 2001)

Unaccountably, all Zimbabwe's black players to come through have been right-handers. Until Clement Mahachi, that is. The former Bulawayo Academy student, now a fulltime professional in Matabeleland, is a useful all-rounder who bats and bowls left-handed.

Clement comes from a keen sporting family, but the predominant family interest is soccer and, like virtually every other black cricketer coming through at present, he has no family background in the game. His interest in the game started at the age of ten or eleven at Lozikeyi primary school in the Bulawayo high-density townships, where the Zimbabwe Cricket Union introduced the game under their development scheme. He was very involved in soccer himself then, but had a friend with whom he used to play cricket for fun at times. He showed enough talent at both batting and bowling for his friend to use that as a reason to join him in attending the cricket sessions in the afternoon, run by Nicholas Sisingo.

Clement remembers his first match, against the prominent REPS (Rhodes Estate Primary School) team, which was attended by Heath Streak and Henry Olonga. Opening the batting, he made his team's top score of 30, and then took four wickets for 21 runs. He did not have the opportunity to attend the selection trials for the Matabeleland side that takes part in the national primary schools cricket week, though.

Unfortunately there was no scholarship scheme in Bulawayo to ensure that Clement was able to attend a cricket-playing high school, and he had no school cricket after that. He did join Bulawayo Athletic Club, though, and was able to continue in the game there. In Form One, he says, he played for the BAC second team and scored 133 against a team from Sunrise, still his highest score in any class of cricket. He feels that his confidence in himself was his main attribute in such a remarkable innings at the age of about 14.

It was not until the 1998/99 season that Clement was actually included in the BAC first team. He was playing successfully for the local development team that plays on Saturdays in the Bulawayo reserve league, later captaining the side to two league titles, and in 1997/98 he averaged 51 with the bat and also took plenty of wickets. Because of his lack of school cricket he was unable to attend representative trials for years, but finally, thanks to the provincial coach, former New Zealand Test player Bob Blair, he won selection for the Matabeleland Under-19 team and met experienced school players like Mluleki Nkala and others.

Clement pays tribute to Mr Blair as a coach who has done a great deal to help him develop his game, especially with his bowling action. More recently Carl Rackemann has also helped him with his bowling. He has also had opportunities to bowl at the national side, and also touring teams like the Sri Lankans and Australians, in the nets, and has picked up useful tips from top players there.

Clement was now in the squad for the full Matabeleland team, and played for a Matabeleland Invitation XI against the touring Australian Cricket Academy side, but without getting the chance to prove himself with bat or ball. He was invited to attend trials for the national Under-19 team for the World Cup, but it was discovered that he was too old to qualify.

In 1999 Clement played well for Bulawayo Athletic Club, opening the batting, with 70 against Bulawayo Sports Club as his highest score amid several fifties, and taking wickets regularly, including four in an innings for 17 runs against Queens Sports Club. He was recommended as an Academy student for 2000 by the Matabeleland Board and by players like John Rennie who were impressed by his ability.

At the Academy, with a number of all-rounders in the team, he was played mainly as a bowler who could bat, going in at number nine, where in the Logan Cup he became known mainly for playing an adhesive role, sometimes as night-watchman. He admits that he lacked confidence with the bat at first, which perhaps helped to account for a lowly position in the order to start off with. He regularly opened in Bulawayo club cricket, but felt he should aim for about number six in the Academy side. He is at present more fluent on the off side than the leg, and can cut well. He is also predominantly a front-foot player but is working on his back-foot technique.

As a bowler the away-swinger is his stock ball, with an occasional inswinger as a surprise weapon. He usually fields in the middle distances, mid-on or mid-off.

He spent the English season of 2000 playing for Brook Cricket Club in Surrey. "I struggled to bat there in the first couple of games because the pitches were a bit slow," he said. "But in the end I did well with the bat. The pitches were very good for my bowling, bowling my dibbly-dobbers!" He scored a couple of unbeaten eighties and his best bowling figures were four for 32. Unfortunately in mid-season he picked up a calf injury, which handicapped his batting and forced him to turn to spin bowling.

He finished his year at the Academy, while playing with success for Old Hararians in the Vigne Cup. His best bowling performance was his four wickets against Old Georgians, but was unable to bowl for a month after dislocating a finger. He was posted back to Bulawayo after his year at the Academy and played for MacDonald Club, with more success in batting than bowling. His finger recovered in time for the Logan Cup programme, where he bowled some useful spells.

Although Clement does not come from a rich family, he is very grateful to them for their support. Although they are not a cricketing family, they used to watch him regularly in Bulawayo and give him every encouragement.

Cricket heroes: "I've always looked on Brian Lara as my model as a batsman, and Wasim Akram as a bowler. Hopefully I will play better than them!"

Toughest opponents: "In England I faced Saqlain Mushtaq in Graham Thorpe's benefit match, and it was quite difficult to face the guy. On the local scene, Bryan Strang because he is quite deceptive. The most difficult batsman to bowl to is Andy Flower."

Immediate ambitions: "It's quite a tough year for me because there's a lot for me to do to improve myself as a professional cricketer. Hopefully I'll make it as a professional cricketer. I would like to play for my country Zimbabwe and that means quite a lot of work."

Proudest achievement: "Coming to the Academy has always been a dream for me because I felt that it would expose me to quite a lot of cricket. I think I will go one step further here by working hard and something has to come up."

Best friends in cricket: "I've got a lot of friends, and in the Academy here I've discovered that we are all working as a team. It's quite a bond and everyone here is my friend."

Other sports: "I've played for the Zimbabwe junior side and at secondary school I used to play for the first team that twice reached the Coca Cola national finals. I love tennis, which is a morale-booster for me because of the ball-eye co-ordination."

Views on cricket: "I give all credit to the establishment of the Cricket Academy here. Believe me, it's worked wonders for me. Young guys get the exposure and spend lots of time thinking about cricket, playing cricket, and doing a lot in terms of physique. The professional supervision is very good and guys get to go to England to play. You get to understand cricket more than if you were practising on your own or playing for a club. I think it is going to make a difference in the near future.

"Going to the Academy was inspirational for me because I brushed shoulders with guys with different views and I got a lot of help from Dave Houghton, who has taught me different techniques and approaches to the game which has made a difference."