WHEN Zimbabwe Cricket convenor of selectors David Mutendera’s name is mentioned, those in cricket circles remember him for his dismissal in a one-day international against Australia at Harare Sports Club in October 1999 when the Baggy Greens called up a nine-man slip cordon and he drove over to be dismissed for 10.
No one ever speaks about the hostile reception he got from senior players in his Test debut against New Zealand at Queens Sports Club about a year later in Bulawayo which left him scarred up to this day.
Only the former right-arm fast-medium bowler speaks about how the white old boys’ clique of that era gave him a cold shoulder, making his debut a bitter experience that he says no other upcoming youngster should ever go through.
Mutendera told Africa Sports Consultancy that whereas young players’ debuts are generally memorable occasions, his first Test appearance for Zimbabwe was horrible.
“It’s (Test debut) not my fondest memories to be honest. My welcome to the team was awful, walking to the changing room knowing that players had to be forced back to play by the (Zimbabwe Cricket Union) board, and there I was as a 21-year-old having done well and just wanting to play. It left a scar and I never moved forward from that as much as I fought hard to try and make it into the Test squad,” said Mutendera.
He did not get any wicket, but bowled quite economical to end with figures of 14-4-29-0 in the first innings and was never given the ball in the second innings. Sadly, that was to be his one and only Test for Zimbabwe in addition to his nine one-day internationals.
Mutendera received a call from the coach in the morning of the match and told he was going to play and this incensed the team’s vice-captain Guy Whittall so much that he refused to play on a matter of “principle” alleging that political interference had influenced the selectors to drop Craig Wishart.
Mutendera therefore went into the match unprepared and needed all the support to help him concentrate, but the palpable hostility towards him from his own teammates didn’t help.
He had to motivate himself and play as best as he could with teammates that didn’t want him to do well.
“To upcoming youngster or any youngster trying to make it in the world, give them the best, give them wings to fly so that they can be the best they can. I like that cricket has given me an opportunity to excel in the sporting field. I’ve actually done more in coaching and grooming youngsters than I did playing for the national team,” said Mutendera.
“I inspire and motivate (youngsters), and they’re forever grateful for that. It means a lot to me more than anything else to build a character by just supporting them and encouraging. I’m doing the best job in the world and I love it more than my playing days.”
He said someone needed to help build his character and prepare him for the rigours of Test cricket and he has been working to ensure the same mistakes made to him are corrected when blooding youngsters into the Test, ODI or T20 international squads.
As convenor of selectors, he wants every deserving player to be given a chance by ensuring there are no slots in the senior national team reserved for “special boys”.