The Third Man
• Not good enough as a player, but brilliant as coach
• The man from Glen View has big dreams for Rwanda Cricket
• He believes women’s cricket in Africa is the right direction
From a volunteer to a top coach, is how you can write his story or you could take another angle, ‘from a changing attendant to an international coach’.
Some would like the ‘From Glen View to Kigali’ take, but either way his story tells you that there is something about giving.
His success story started when he gave up on playing after ‘realising I wasn’t good enough’.
But the Zimbabwe, Namibia and Rwanda Cricket governing boards saw him as good enough to take their women’s game to another level.
I am back again, your Third man, I know I had promised this edition to carry a story from Australia, but on my imaginary journey Down Under I had to stop in Kigali.
I got hooked by Leonard Nhamburo’s Facebook post where he was practicing with a few of the Rwanda Women’s cricket team players.
So today we are in Rwanda and as the Thirdman, I bring you closer to the man as he shares his story from the early days.
“Back then I was playing a bit of club cricket.
“From there I went into the provincial trials and when I didn’t make it into the side, I realised playing at that level was not my thing.
“Look during that period, the crop of players that were playing during that time around 1998, I think that was the time when Zimbabwe was a bit up in terms of playing the game at the highest level, be it club or provincial.
“I think we had good strong players at that time, so I decided that playing at that level is not my thing.
“I asked myself, how do I give back to the game? So I started volunteering, coaching players.
“That’s the only option I had on giving back to the game.
“I had no future in playing.”
Well, a future he had in coaching and he is glad he took this path.
“I thought, let me go back coach the youngsters so they can feel the gap and play where I did not manage to play.
“And by so doing it was also developing other guys from where I come from.
“It was to show that not coming from the upmarket suburbs doesn’t have to stop you from pursuing your career.
“Look, here I am and happy that’s what started my career.”
So what’s his take on Rwanda, a country not known much for its cricket?
The International Cricket Council (ICC) granted Rwanda Cricket full Women’s Twenty20 International status in 2018. But for the few weeks he has been there, Nhamburo, 40, says something is brewing in the Eastern- Central African country.
“They are guys looking to develop and if you see a plan they have set it’s amazing.
Everyone from the board to the government, they have got all the support and they are heading in the right direction.
“They are keen to take their cricket to the next level be it the women’s or the men’s.
“We have been putting in some hard work for the two days I arrived, before the lockdown.
I have had a chat with a few players even from the men’s. They really know what they want to achieve.”
And that Facebook post coach where you are training with two players in the backyard…. what’s the story?
“I was just doing fitness sessions with the players who are close to where I stay…and the others would send programs. They do it themselves.”
In Zimbabwe Nhamburo has produced stars and in Namibia during a short stint he took the team to the ICC Cricket Women’s T20 World Cup qualifiers.
But like they say home is where the heart is.
“I had a chance with the Zim team, also had a stint with Namibia and now I am with Rwanda.
“As coaches, our job is to move around, spread the game, improve players and improve nations.
“So I am actually prepared to spread my wings wider wherever I am needed.
“That’s the truth anyway, it’s always hard to forget where you come from.
“Your heart will always be at home, but it’s work, sometimes we are forced to move for your family to survive.
“We all go out there to work so that we can feed our families.
“But you always want to see your home country doing well in whatever they are doing in terms of the game.”
Nhamburo has been a changing room attendant for all the Test playing nations who have toured Zimbabwe. That tells a story of his cricketing mind.
“That helped me big time, that opportunity doesn’t come very often. I have seen a lot of people taking those duties for granted.
“You don’t often meet the top players and coaches in the world that easily.
“I have been with India, South Africa, Australia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka.
“I have been in their meetings and I have met players and coaches of some of the teams two or three times.
“I have got relationships with some of those guys…
“That helped in my coaching because I would ask for information and I learnt a lot.
“That’s where most of my coaching attitude and ideas improved, look we are talking about having the best players in the world in the changing room.
“The way they think, the way they approach the game and being in there with them, those are the things. You try to get as much information as possible.
“And I tried to build as much relationships as I could.”
Who else has been influential in your coaching career?
“It goes back to my first coach Nicholas Munyurwa. He is now based in South Africa.
He was more like a brotherly figure.
“And as you go on you meet a lot of coaches and one guy I would give much credit to be where I am now is Stanley Timoni.
“He gave me exposure, he is my mentor he doesn’t get tired with me and I also don’t get tired asking advice from him.
“He has made a difference in my career.”
They say behind a successful man there is a woman. Nhamburo concurs.
“I have been with my wife since 2000. She has seen most of my ups and downs. She has been there throughout my career.
“She has been very much supportive in things that I do.
“I always consult her first before making moves on contracts and she has always urged me not give up saying I have got a lot of talent to nurture.”
Glen View has cricket talent in players and coaches, but their club Glenshire is no longer a force to reckon with. What is happening in that Ghetto?
“We have produced quality players that have played at the highest level…club, provincial and national team.
“When we were demoted from the Vigne Cup we allowed players to join other teams and have youngsters to groom.
“We obviously will sit and strategise to be a strong and competitive club again.”
“It’s something I have seen that we are now grooming coaches yes you talked about Reggie, “Denny, Tiffie and also we have got Brighton Mhembere also among the coaches.
“It’s something we can be proud of as Glen View that we have got guys making sure we produce players as a country and as province.
“It’s our part to make sure that we get our players exposed.”
I couldn’t finish this interview without asking Nhamburo about Trevor Garwe, another gem cricketer from Glen View who is currently the Zimbabwe Women’s team bowling coach.
If you know Garwe, you understand what an interesting character he is. I will definitely have him on this column in the near future.
“He used to be a wicket keeper then I turned him into a seamer who went on to be a top bowler in the country.
“I also got the privilege of coaching at Mash Eagles the season we won three trophies.
“When he was appointed the bowling coach I was in Namibia and was happy seeing him growing into a coach.
“And when I came back joining the Eagles in the inaugural domestic women’s tournament he was my assistant coach.
“How good is it to have someone you saw growing up and coached now sitting on the same bench with you as a coach.
“We also talk about how to help the game grow….
“He has great potential, he is a good coach and a good guy.”
Since I was on a journey to Australia I had to end this interview so I asked Nhamburo about the possibility of a Rwanda Women – Zimbabwe Women series.
“It’s in the pipeline. After we have set up everything we can start having discussions with Zimbabwe so that we can go there or they can come here.”
And how does he see the future of women’s cricket in Africa?
“I think it’s going in the right direction if you look at South Africa being the top team in Africa, then Zimbabwe being the second and you talking about Namibia, Uganda also….
“If the countries continue supporting women’s cricket then we will be one of the key figures in terms of women’s cricket in the world.
“We have got the numbers and anyway a lot of teams in Africa have introduced women’s cricket.
We have seen countries like Mozambique, Lesotho, Malawi, Botswana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Tanzania in there.
It shows that there is something right being done on women’s cricket.
“In the next three to five years Africa will dominate if we keep on supporting the game.”
This is the end of this innings, we catch up next time from the pacy and bouncy pitches of Australia.