The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
THERE is a lot of optimism from local cricket fans about the chances of the Zimbabwe Under-19 team who started their campaign at this year’s International Cricket Council Under-19 Cricket World Cup against Bangladesh in South Africa yesterday.
What makes local fans optimistic about the team’s prospects is the presence of a number of talented players, some of them with lots of experience in age group cricket.
One of those players is all-rounder, Milton Shumba who is appearing at an ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup for the third time, having gone to the 2016 and 2018 editions of the tournament. Shumba, a left-handed batsmen and left arm spinner feels fortunate enough to represent his country at three ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cups.
“It’s an unexplainable feeling to be at this stage once again, but also, it’s a privilege to be part of the squad, I have managed to achieve this through hard work and also putting God first,’’ Shumba said.
Born and raised in Chitungwiza, Shumba went to Fungisai Primary School and went on to do Form One and Two at Seke 1 High before he got a scholarship to go to Churchill in Harare. He had started playing cricket at the age of nine.
Shumba made it into the Zimbabwe Under-19 team at the age of 15 in 2015. Coming from a family where no one has played sport at an international level, his parents have been a huge part in his sporting journey.
“My parents played a major role more than anyone in my career, the way they support me is amazing and I should say I am blessed to have them in my life, they have my back through thick and thin.”
Nothing will make the youngster happier than Zimbabwe bringing the trophy home, something that has never happened before.
“If I am to be realistic we can go as far as the final, the boys are coming all in and I think we showed that in the previous games that we played, we are not kneeling down to anyone. It’s high time for a change and I back my team to be the change. Nothing brings a smile on my face than lifting that trophy and do what has never been done,’’ Shumba said.
There have been calls for Shumba, Under-19 captain Dion Myers and vice-captain Wesley Madhevere to be included in the Zimbabwean senior team for next month’s tour of Bangladesh. Shumba has declared himself ready to step up to the international game but now wants to focus on the task at hand in South Africa.
“I have confidence in myself to step up and knock the doors at international level, I just have to keep it simple for myself and focus on the job at hand now and that’s the Under-19 World Cup. The rest will come after.”
Zimbabwe have shown some great promise in the build-up to the Under-19 World Cup, with wins over South Africa and New Zealand in a quadrangular series that also featured India in Durban.
Shumba won the Man of the Match award for scoring a half century and picking up four wickets when the Zimbabwean lads floored New Zealand by two wickets and claimed third spot in the quadrangular series. He also notched up 52 with the bat when Zimbabwe went down by 23 runs in their last warm up match against India in Johannesburg last Tuesday.
“I have been batting well in my past games, I just feel like I need to bat through and get more hundreds for the team. I must say I am in good shape ready to play,’’ Shumba reckoned.
With players such as Shumba, Myers, Madhevere and the rest of their Under-19 teammates, the future of the game in the country certainly looks promising.