From Winstonians to Takashinga
Since the beginning of the new club cricket season, many a cricket supporter has asked the question as to why Old Winstonians had changed to a more traditional name of `Takashinga'. People have been wondering what the new name means, and also their current relationship with national wicket keeper/batsman, Andy Flower, who used to play for the club.
To find answers for these questions I contacted the club secretary and player at Takashinga, Givemore Makoni, who also gave me the background of the club in order to explain the reason for the change of name.
"We have changed the name to identify with ourselves and our community. We are a black club, and `Winstonians' does not identify with us in any way. `Takashinga' means we are brave and we will fight all the way. This symbolizes the black people of Zimbabwe who are no quitters at anything they set their mind on."
As for Andy Flower, his stay at the club has ended, and he is back with his brother, Grant, at his home club, Old Georgians. Flower initially moved to Winstonians to help the club, which was struggling at the time. In doing so, he added a bit of racial harmony to Zimbabwean cricket, as well as helping hugely in the development of black players in the country, a development which can be seen in the potential of players such as Tatenda Taibu and Hamilton Masakadza.
On Flower's move back to Old Georgians Makoni says, "We appreciate the contribution he made on the field in the few games that he played for us [he was not available for the majority of matches due to national team duties]. He gave the much-needed confidence to most of our young players and we will always respect him for that. As you know, there have been problems of racism in Zimbabwe cricket and the integration process and we did not agree on certain issues so he left."
Many might disagree with Makoni's attitude towards Flower's departure, but not many can disagree with his description of the club's new name, given the club's meteoric rise over the past 11 years.
In 1990, Givemore Makoni and Stephen Mangongo decided to form a cricket club. They had the support in terms of players, but did not have the facilities and equipment which they would need due to the fact that most of their players could not afford their own cricket kit.
They therefore approached businesses for sponsorship of equipment, and asked various schools to allow their club the use of their grounds as the club's home base. Initially the response was not good, but in the end Churchill School allowed the club to use the school's cricket ground on condition that they use Old Winstonians as their club name so as to identify with the school. The name Winstonians, of course, came from Sir Winston Churchill, the former British Prime Minister, after whom the school was named, and the school's old boys are called Winstonians.
"So being a young club we had no choice but to call ourselves Winstonians. This did not bother us, as all we wanted at that time was to play cricket," Makoni explains. The club immediately appointed former Churchill Headmaster, Mr Dawson Mutsekwa, as their patron, and the late Peter Sharples, who was the sports master at Churchill at the time, as the club's chairman.
As the years went by the club's young players became older and gained experience and the club began to make an impression in domestic cricket. The team gained promotion from fourth to third league, and then from third to second league in 1998.
At this stage the club embarked on "The Highfield Project" - building their own home ground in what Makoni describes as `the ghetto', where the majority of the club's players originated, and where the two founding fathers were born and grew up.
The club continued to grow and their profile was boosted by the arrival of Andy Flower. After beating everyone in the 1998 Mashonaland Vigne Cup second League, they were promoted to the Mashonaland Vigne Cup first league, and then to the national first League in the 1999/2000 season.
"We were the new boys in the league and it was the first experience for most of our young players of top-flight cricket. Players like Tatenda Taibu, Hamilton Masakadza, Stewart Matsikenyeri, Alester Maregwede, Rangarirai Manyande and Elton Chigumbura, to name just a few, were experiencing this type of cricket for the first time.
"The 1999/2000 season was a season for gaining experience, self-belief and maturity. Technique was never in doubt as the club is blessed with the best coach in the country, Stephen Mangongo," says Makoni, who clearly has the greatest admiration for his co-founder and colleague.
And he is not alone in his admiration for Mangongo, who has been given the job of assistant coach to Steve Rhodes for the Zimbabwe Under-19 team at the Under-19 World Cup to be held in New Zealand next year. Four of his club colleagues, who have obviously benefited both from his coaching and from their experience in the national first league, will join him. Tatenda Taibu and Hamilton Masakadza, who have both already made an impact for the national team, as well as Elton Chigumbura and Stewart Matsikenyeri, will also be going to New Zealand in February.
This sort of class has taken the Takashinga first team to the top of the national first division. They won their first five matches of the season, as did Takashinga second XI, who are at the top of the second league. The club fields one other team - their third team - who are at the top of the fourth league Vigne Cup. Providing that resources permit, the club hopes to introduce a fourth team into the league next season.
The introduction of a fourth team seems much needed since the club now has a player base of 164 members, which probably makes it the biggest cricketing club in the country. An extra team would therefore give valuable match practice to the rest of the players who do not make the first, second or third teams.
It would be a surprise if another club in the country had a bigger following of women's cricket than Takashinga, where the sport was recently introduced - an impressive number of 56 women is currently registered with the club and the numbers are climbing all the time.
The club has had large crowds from the community coming to watch both practice sessions and matches to provide support for their heroes, and in particular for the national players - a group which now includes Henry Olonga, who moved to the club at the beginning of the season. However Olonga has yet to make an impact at the club as he has been with the national team, and has therefore only played one game for the club this season.
Takashinga can therefore boast of moving from having just one team in the fourth league eleven years ago, to having three teams, each at the tops of their respective divisions. While achieving this, the club has performed an even more important task in providing an excellent base for black youngsters from the poorer high-density suburbs to get involved in the game. This will widen the country's player base and hopefully one day help them to rise up the ladder in the Test ratings.
Huge respect is due to Givemore Makoni and Stephen Mangongo for their dedication and contribution to cricket in the country. While many institutions in the country have become corrupt and only self-interested, they have stayed true to the game of cricket and have developed their project into an excellent institution that is their very own cricket academy for those of poorer backgrounds.