How Rhinos broke the ‘choking’ jinx

Column - The Third Man Sport Zimbabwe

Brighton Zhawi

They have been called ‘harmless Rhinos,’ ‘chokers’, ‘pretenders’ and all sorts of names associated with a struggling and inconsistent team.

The nicknames and disses were a result of their empty cabinet and consistent near-misses.

It must have been a ‘here we go again’ feeling when Rhinos were swept away to finish the T20 competition winless. But fortunes changed. In-fact, things have changed. There is a trophy in the Rhinos cabinet. After years of heartbreaks, the
MidWest cricket team has something to cheer about.

Winning the Zimbabwe Cricket Pro 50 competition title was historic, cathartic and terrific for the Rhinos team and stuff.
To understand how they did it and how it feels to break a jinx Brighton Zhawi (BZ) caught up with the team’s head coach Walter Chawaguta (WC) for this week’s edition of The Thirdman.

Below are excerpts of the interview. Read on…

BZ: I will have to start with the trophy, finally Rhinos have got silverware. How did that feel?

WC: It feels good to be part of history. Credit to the player group and the leadership of Tarisai Musakanda and Brendon Mavhuta, (vice- captain).

BZ: At the start of the season was there belief amongst the group that you would win a trophy during this campaign?

WC: We agreed as a team that we needed to break this cycle. We set ourselves a goal of winning at least one of the Domestic Competitions. After the T20 debacle it seemed a little far -fetched to aim that high. What we then did was regroup after the T20’s and basically set ourselves the goal of just playing in the Pro 50 final. Once we made it to the final there was no looking back. For us pressure was off, there and then winning the final just became the cherry on top.

BZ: What coaching formula did you employ to attain this success?

WC: It was really about asking players to understand and fulfil their roles within the team plan Focus on making smarter decisions in pressure moments and focusing on doing the small things right for longer, which would translate to winning big moments. And really keeping a relaxed environment in the camp by giving players a bigger say in decisions and backing them thereafter.

BZ: How pleasing was it seeing Takudzwa Kaitano perform consistently across all formats?

WC: He is a hard worker and for me it’s pleasing to see a player who works that hard and is really self-driven, getting the nod from our selection panel. I know he didn’t get a chance to play in the Pakistan Series, but I have no doubt this episode has done his confidence a lot of good. We haven’t seen the best of him yet.

BZ: In the Logan Cup you also had Charles Kunje as the fourth highest run scorer, Remembrance Nyathi as the seventh best while Mavhuta and Tafara Chingwara were third and fourth respectively on the wickets charts. How valuable was their contribution to the team?

WC: There were a lot of notable contributions during the season in the Logan Cup indeed. Chingwara has been particularly good for us in the Logan cup, easily our best seamer in red ball cricket. Kunje has the makings of solid top order and his transfer to Midwest has added quality and solidity in our batting order.

Nyathi has always performed for us in the four-day cricket and this year was no exception. Of course Mavhuta, having captained for the major part of the season, was good with the ball. He seems to be coming of age with the bat as well, which has added that much value to him. His wicket taking ability is his biggest strength and hopefully we can continue to put that to good use.

BZ: A look at the Pro 50 charts you would see Carl Mumba amongst the runs and wickets, Kunje again on the run getters and Mavhuta was outstanding as well. What was motivating these guys?

WC: Yes, Carl Mumba was outstanding with the bat, playing his finishing role very well. He is definitely enjoying good form with the ball as well bowling with good pace and control. It just felt like the players were enjoying themselves a lot, which made it easy to relax and execute their skills.

BZ: They say one brings more, am sure the team and everyone involved will be pushing for more silverware in the future?

WC: It would be good to retain the cup and win other versions as well. The focus will always be on doing the right things.

If we continue to focus on this and enjoying each other’s company, I have no doubt that we will collect more silverware for Midwest Rhinos.