Cheerful Chigumbura faces big task

Chigumbura has hit a total of 13 half-centuries in 122 one-day internationals. (AFP)

Elton Chigumbura, the third man in recent years to be appointed captain of Zimbabwe while in his early twenties, projects a cheerful optimism about his team’s prospects in international cricket.

Even when his team were suffering three heavy defeats on a tour of South Africa at the beginning of this season, Chigumbura, 24, was able to find positives in their performances.
But if Zimbabwe are to punch above their weight in the World Cup, their captain will need to lift his personal game.
An attacking batsman and useful medium-pace bowler, Chigumbura has a highest score of 41 - and that against lowly Ireland - and has taken only two wickets in 14 matches since being made skipper last May.
It is a record at odds with his early achievements.
Although born in the Zimbabwe Midlands town of Kwekwe, Chigumbura’s talents were spotted while he was playing for a primary school in Harare’s Highfield township.
He was one of several accomplished players to benefit from a Zimbabwe Cricket scholarship to Churchill school, an institution with a strong cricket tradition.
At the age of 15 he made his debut for Mashonaland in the Logan Cup first-class competition and barely a month after his 18th birthday was playing for his country.
It did not take him long to make an impression, top-scoring with 77 against a strong Australian bowling attack in a one-day international in Harare after coming in when his team were 50 for five.
In his next two matches, in the ICC Champions Trophy in England in 2004, he again top-scored with innings of 42 not out against England and 57 against Sri Lanka.
In 122 one-day internationals he has hit a total of 13 half-centuries.
Before Zimbabwe’s self-imposed exile from Test cricket, he played in six matches before he turned 19, with a highest score of 71 against Bangladesh in Chittagong.
In a recent interview with the ESPN Cricinfo website, Chigumbura said of his captaincy experience: “At international level, it’s a bigger challenge than captaining a provincial first-class team.
“But I’ve enjoyed it so far, and also with the guys gelling well as a team it’s made my job much easier. I know there are bigger challenges to come, but I’m looking forward to them.”
He enjoys a good relationship with coach Alan Butcher, who he says has helped instil confidence and team spirit.
Chigumbura believes that in the long term, Zimbabwe will need more matches against top-quality opposition if they are to improve.
 
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