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Zimbabwe Cricket's nationwide campaign to unearth pace bowling talent, which began with trials in Bulawayo on March 23, before moving to Kwekwe, Kadoma and Masvingo, has attracted attention from an interesting variety of fast-bowling hopefuls.
Among the high turnout of regional club players at the Bulawayo trials were an uncoached young bowler with a slinging action reminiscent of Lasith Malinga, a forty-year-old left-arm seamer who was inspired to revive his cricket career, and a member of the Zimbabwe Republic Police who turned up for a chance to exhibit his fast-bowling credentials.
When the selection team travelled to Kadoma, not traditionally known as a hotbed of cricketing talent, they were surprised to find two very tall and strongly built young men who apparently showed great potential. "Kadoma is quiet town with not as much competitive cricket being played as compared to Harare and Bulawayo and it is a huge eye-opener to discover these boys and I hope they will make in the final selection in Harare on April 10," said selector and judge Kevin Curran.
When the trials moved to Masvingo, people travelled from all over the province to audition, but none came from further away than four young cricketers who journeyed more than 200km from Chiredzi to have the opportunity to fulfil their cricketing dreams. Through their sheer determination and a display of raw talent at the trials, two of the boys were selected to progress to the final selection.
"It is amazing how well some of these guys bowl so naturally without any special training or expertise," commented Curran on the indomitable young bowlers. "Some of them are already bowling at an average speed of 120km/h with just the natural instinct of pace bowlers. From the looks of things Chiredzi will be the next resource for fresh talent."
Other noteworthy participants at the Masvingo trials included five members of the grounds staff at Masvingo Sports Club, who had been watching the session while going about their duties and were delighted to get an opportunity in the nets. The men have a daily lunchtime backyard cricket ritual, where they play impromptu cricket matches on the club's sand tennis courts using the balls that the Southern Rocks franchise, who use the ground as a home base, no longer need.
"Anyone can become the next fast bowler and you never know who it may be, this an open invitation to all aspiring cricketers out there," added Curran. "Wasim Akram from Pakistan was picked up by scouts in the most unexpected place and in a space of just under four months, he was opening the bowling for his country. We believe it can happen anywhere and I would not be surprised if one of the players we select will do the same."
The final round of trials will be held at Harare Sports Club on Wednesday March 31. The most promising candidates will then be invited to the final trial at the same venue on April 10, when the selectors will narrow the search down to 12 boot-camp candidates.
Those that make the final cut will be rewarded with a year at Zimbabwe's High Performance Centre. The national and fast-bowling campaign selectors will then decide which of the candidates will be awarded a rookie contract with a franchise, a possible first step in selection for the national side.