Elton Chigumbura’s final curtain call

Isaac Lockett reflects on the career of Elton Chigumbura and how he set the blueprint for future Zimbabwean cricketers.

Elton Chigumbura celebrates a milestone (Photo: ICC)

The international career of former Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura’s came to an end on Tuesday following the final game of Pakistan’s home series against the Chevrons. With the curtain closing on what has been a fantastic international career it allows for the start of a period of reflection as fans of the sport look back at Chigumbura’s career. 

Elton Chigumbura’s career in numbers 

Chigumbura’s international career started at the age of 18 during Sri Lanka’s tour of Zimbabwe in 2004. The first Test of the two-match series was played at Harare and looking down the scorecard there are many memorable names including legends Kumar Sangakkara, Marvan Atapattu and Muttiah Muralitharan, with the match also marking the debut of Zimbabwe’s Brendan Taylor who has gone on to form an illustrious career of his own. The home side went on to lose the match, but Chigumbura picked up his first cap for Zimbabwe becoming the country’s 61st Test cricketer. 

Over the course of his career, Chigumbura went on to play a further 13 Tests for Zimbabwe with his final match coming against Bangladesh in Chattogram during 2014. Chigumbura showed his talent with both bat and ball over the course of his Test career with the all-rounder finishing with 21 wickets including a five-for against Bangladesh in 2005 whilst averaging 21.07 with the bat including a highest score of 88, coming in his final Test

But it was in One Day Internationals where the right-hander arguably made his largest mark. Chigumbura is only one of four players who have currently played over 200 ODI matches for Zimbabwe, with Grant Flower, Andy Flower and Hamilton Masakadza being the other names on the list. It’s also worth noting that Brendan Taylor is only one game away from his 200th ODI appearance.

Over the course of his 210 ODI matches, the Zimbabwean all-rounder graced stadiums across the world with some memorable performances including a vital 38 during a Zimbabwe victory against the West Indies in 2007 and 52 runs against Australia during a match where Zimbabwe secured their first win against their opponents after 31 years.

Chigumbura finished his ODI career with 4340 runs at an average of 25.23 and 101 wickets. Alongside his impressive Test and ODI records, his T20 International numbers are no less impressive with 893 runs at a strike rate of 140.62 and 16 wickets.

Elton Chigumbura celebrates a milestone (Photo: ICC)

Unfortunately, there is no escaping that Chigumbura’s career was affected by injuries with the all-rounder having to take time on the sidelines for a variety of ailments including a stress fracture in his back. However, despite setbacks, Chigumbura always seemed to play cricket with a smile on his face and played with dedication and commitment for the teams he represented. 

Chigumbura as a leader

Not only will Chigumbura be remembered as a fine player, but his leadership ability should not be overlooked when reflecting on his career.

He was first appointed captain of Zimbabwe’s cricket teams in 2010 and was described to have initial success as he led the team to illustrious victories against India and Sri Lanka during a home triangular series. 

However, a few months after the 2011 World Cup the captaincy changed and Brendan Taylor’s initial stint as captain began. But in 2014, Chigumbura then became both Zimbabwe’s ODI and T20I captain following the decision to split the responsibilities with Taylor.

Chigumbura as the epitome of promise

Despite only retiring from international cricket, this new dawn on his career allows fans to reflect on his career so far. Arguably Chigumbura was one of the first Zimbabweans to take on the always growing world of franchise-based cricket and also gained experience during a spell at English county side Northamptonshire.

Despite there being exciting talents spread out throughout Zimbabwe’s cricketing history it is still uncommon to see Zimbabwean representation at major franchise events. Beyond this apparent barrier, the Zimbabwean all-rounder gained franchise experience playing at the Caribbean Premier League with the Barbados Tridents, the Pakistan Super League with the Quetta Gladiators and the Bangladesh Premier League with the Sylhet Royals.  

Chigumbura was able to break into the world of franchise cricket and based upon his international career and his success in overseas conditions it would appear that his experiences benefitted him. Chigumbura’s now-former national teammate Blessing Muzarabani adds to the body of evidence that suggests that gaining experiences outside of Zimbabwe (beyond the infrequent national team matches) is vital for continued development.

Muzarabani returned to the international fold during Zimbabwe’s tour of Pakistan after a two-year stint at one of Chigumbura’s old clubs Northamptonshire. The online spectators were amply impressed by Muzarabani’s performances during both the ODI and T20 series as he finished top wicket-taker during the ODI series with 7 at an average of 19.42 and picked up four wickets during the T20I series. 

Blessing Muzarambani celebrates a wicket (Photo: ICC)

There has been a recent outcry after Thailand’s Natthakan Chantham only faced one ball during the Women’s T20 Challenge during her time with the Trailblazers. Whilst, there is no disputing that Chantham’s opportunity was limited during the Women’s T20 Challenge, if Chigumbura’s career is anything to go by, the Thai opening batter’s international career will only flourish through her experience of playing in different conditions. 

Zimbabwe has many exciting talents in its ranks with Wesley Madhevere being the brightest star on show during the tour to Pakistan and now with Chigumbura retiring there is the opportunity for him to focus on either domestic cricket or coaching. There have not been any announcements regarding Chigumbura’s future path but with his country’s domestic season just starting there is the optimism that the former international captain will help mentor future generations of Zimbabwe cricketers.  

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