Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
A young cricketer, Liam Mudenda is dominating the local junior cricket circles with his exceptional batting talent, with many who have watched him in action predicting a bright future for the lad.
The 11-year-old represents three teams, which are Petra College Junior first team, Bulawayo Development Under-13 and Heath Streak Academy Under-14. He has won a number of accolades for his batting display since 2016. He was voted best batsman at the Carmel Cricket Festival in 2016, Whitestone Cricket Festival in 2018 and bagged the same award in India when he represented the Heath Streak Academy in August this year. Mudenda took the best bowler award at the Carmel Cricket Festival in 2016 and won the Most Valuable Player while touring South Africa with the Heath Streak Academy Under-13 side in 2016.
Last Saturday, Mudenda scored 118 not out while playing for the Bulawayo Development Under-13 against Falcon College Under-14 in a match played in Esigodini.
The lad is a top order batsman and bowls leg spin. In 2018, Mudenda scored 1 000 runs and took more than 30 wickets. He notched 11 fifties and a hundred. This year, he has so far scored over 1 500 runs and took more than 25 wickets, which include 10 fifties and three hundreds, with an average of 149.
Last Wednesday, Mudenda scored 61 for Petra when they played Whitestone in a 25 over contest with his effort not good enough to lead his team to victory as they went down by five wickets.
The youngster attributed his talent to hard work he puts into his training and being able to be calculative when he is batting.
“All I do when I am batting is watch the ball, play each ball on its merit, that’s what helps me and if I think I can hit it I hit it, if I think I can’t I don’t. Hard work, going for training a lot helps also. If you put effort into what you want to do, you will achieve what you want to do,’’ Liam said.
His desire is to pursue his cricket career in England while he yearns to play for his country at international level.
“I want to go to England, play some county cricket and then see if I can play for my country. I enjoy my batting, whenever I go for training the first thing I do is bat, normally for an hour- and-a-half, that really helps me in the matches to play well.”
According to the lad, who is the grandson of the speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda, his parents Donald and Violet have played a massive part in his development as a cricketer together with Shaun Joseph, his coach at the Heath Streak Academy.
“My parents have played a big part and also my coach, I’ve had a few coaches but I think this one has really helped me to achieve my goals, coach Shaun Joseph,” he said.
His most memorable match is the one against the Falcon College Under-14 when he scored a century.
“There was a game I played against Falcon Under-14, in that game I wasn’t too confident going in to face them but when I got in I just said play your normal game, play the ball, not the man. I didn’t think of facing this guy, he is so fast, I just played the ball and then I got a hundred, that’s my most memorable game.”
His father, Donald Mudenda said his son’s talent in the sport does not come as a surprise since he also played cricket. In addition, the mother is a sporting person as well.
“I played cricket myself, I was a very passionate cricket player in my days, I started playing cricket at the age of eight, I also played for the province. I made the Zimbabwe Under-16 so there is cricket in the family, the mother is also quite sporty so I can safely say he has got a good set of genes,’’ the father said.
The lad, who is in Grade Seven trains a lot, with two hours a week dedicated to personal sessions at the Heath Streak Academy.
“He plays for three teams, his school team, Heath Streak Under-14 and he also plays for the Bulawayo Development. There is a lot of training that goes into it, of course school training is the priority, we try and find at least two extra hours every week where he goes for one-on ones at the Heath Streak Academy.”
His coach at Petra, Stanslaus Rukato described the youngster as a rare talent in his generation who is a wonderful case in point that hard work pays off.
“Liam Mudenda is a once in a generation cricketer and I have been fortunate enough to watch him develop into this incredible cricketer that he is. He is a perfect example that shows that hard work pays off and the support that his parents Donald and Violet Mudenda have given him has allowed his game to flourish beyond expectations,’’ Rukato said.
Not wanting to take all the credit for the youngster’s development, Rukato feels that Goodwill Mamhiyo, a former Tuskers and Zimbabwe A skipper shaped the boy’s career in cricket.
“I give credit to his first coach Goodwill Mamhiyo, who is a former Zimbabwe A captain, for instilling great work ethics in him. For someone who is at the top of his game he is very humble and great team player. I can safely say with great confidence he is the best cricketer in his age group in the country at the moment and he is a gem in the making,’’ said Rukato.
With Indian captain Virat Kohli being his idol, with the two sharing a birthday, Mudenda looks destined to achieve big in cricket.